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L I E) RAFLY 

OF THE 

UN IVLRSITY 
Of ILLINOIS 



K565c 
V. 2> 



^ 



A CRACK COUNTY, 



A CRACK COUNTY. 



H novel 



BY 



MES. EDWAED KENNAED, 



Author of 

"Killed in the Open," "The Girl in the Brown Habit." 
" A Real Good Thing," etc., etc. 



I^' THREE VOLUMES. 



VOL III. 



LONDON: 

F. V. WHITE & CO., 
31, SOUTHAMPTON STKEET. STKAND, W.C, 

1888. 



PRINTED BY 
KELLY AND CO., GATE STREET, LINCOLN'S INN FIKLDS, 
AND KINGSTON-ON-THAMES. 



8£5 

V.3 



CONTENTS. 

CHAP. PAGE 

I. — A Regular " Clinker " . . . . 1 

II. — " If You Mean Leaping, Don't Look 

Long" . . . . . . 19 

III. — Run to Ground ..... 39 

lY. — Bob and His Kindred Spirit Fail Out 57 

V. — A Fashionable Steeple-Chase Meeting 76 

VI. — An Amateur Finish . . . . 101 

VII. — ''I would Giye Mt Life to Serve You" 121 

VIII. — Bob Receives a Severe Shock . . 140 

IX. — Love Before Money . . . .161 

X. — Jumping Muddtford Bottom . . 189 
XI. — A Parting Bequest . . . .218 

XII. — Conclusion ...... 246 



pOfUb/eF^ fJEW J^OVEbS. 

Now ready, the Seventh Edition of 

" AKMY SOCIETY." By JonN STRA.NGE Winter, Author of 
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"GARRISON GOSSIP," Gathered in Blankhampton. By JOHN 
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"A SIEGE BABY." By the same AUTHOR. 

" IN THE SHIRES." By Sir Randal H. Roberts, Bart. Also, 
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"THE GIRL IN THE BROWN HABIT." A Sporting Novel. By 
Mrs. Edward Kennard. Also, picture boards, 2*. 

« BY WOMAN'S WIT." By Mrs. ALEXANDER, Author of " The 
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" MONADS CHOICE." By the same AUTHOR. 

"KILLED IN THE OPEN." By Mrs. EDWARD KENNARD. Also, 
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"IN A GRASS COUNTRY." By Mrs. H. Lovett-Cameron. 
Also, picture boards, 2s. 

"A lEVOUT LOVER. By the same AUTHOR. 

"THE OUTSIDER." By Hawley SMART. Also, picture boards, 25. 

"STRAIGHT AS A DIE." By Mrs. EDWARD Kennard. Also, 
picture boards, 2s. 

"TWILIGHT TALES." By Mrs. EDWARD KENNARD. (Illustrated.) 

" SHE CAME BETWEEN." By Mrs. ALEXANDER ERASER. 

" THE CRUSADE OP THE ' EXCELSIOR.' " By BRET Harte. 

" CURB AND SNAFFLE." By SiR RANDAL H. ROBERTS, Bart. 

" A REAL GOOD THING." By Mrs. EDWARD KENNARD. 

" DREAM FACES." By THE HONBLB. MRS. FETHERSTONHAUOH, 



F. V. WHITE & Co., 
81, Southampton Street, Strand, London, W.O. 



A CRACK COUNTY. 



CHAPTEE I. 



A REGULAR " CLINKER. 



An expectant silence fell upon the hard- 
riding division of the field, whilst hounds 
were drawing the celebrated covert, known 
by the name of Pilkington Hill-side. 
Every sound made these eager Nimrods 
prick up their ears, and the shrill whistle 
of a distant train, striking suddenly on 
the air, was momentarily mistaken for a 
view halloa, and created quite a remark- 
able commotion, though one of short-lived 
duration. 

Whilst less enthusiastic sportsmen stood 

VOL. II". 34 



2 A CRACK COUNTY. 

lighting up cigars and whiling away the 
time in desultory conversation, the more 
ardent spirits threaded their way dex- 
terously through the crowd of horses, and 
stationed themselves opposite a five -barred 
gate, at a point where they considered the 
fox was most likely to break covert. 
They stood there like sentinels, ready, 
however, to dart off in pursuit directly 
Pug made an attempt to face the open. 
Scarce a sound did they utter, except an 
occasional oath, when some fidgety animal 
sidled or kicked, and so caused his rider to 
fall back and lose a place or two, besides 
provoking a general feeling of irritation. 

But the minutes went by, and Reynard 
did not show himself, as was confidently 
anticipated, Not even a whimper burst 
from the throats of his enemies, and 
nought could be heard, save the steady 
crashing of twigs and grasses, as the 
hounds poked about among the thick 



A REGULAE "CLINKER." 3 

undergrowth and thoroughly investigated 
every likely spot. Now and again, one 
would steal out into the field, and there 
pause to take breath, before recommencing 
her labours. By-and-by others might be 
seen gazing disconsolately around, as if to 
give notice that they were quite as much 
disappointed as their human friends and 
allies at the way events were shaping. 

Consternation now began to spread 
amongst the ranks. Jaws dropped, faces 
looked glum. Pilkington Hill- side blank ? 
— and blank thus early in the season. 
What could the owner have been about, 
or what excuses had he to make for so 
disgraceful a state of things ? He was too 
fond of shooting by a great deal. He was 
not half a sportsman. He ought to have 
cut down some of the undergrowth. It 
was ridiculously thick. The best hounds 
in the world might not succeed in finding 
a fox under such conditions, &c., &c. We 



■ A CRACK COUNTY. 

all know the sort of things that are said on 
these occasions. There must be a scape- 
goat, and he is nearly always the proprietor, 
who, poor man ! nine times out of ten, 
feels the non-discovery of Pug far more 
keenly than the whole field put together, 
and needs not their reproaches to inflict a 
still deeper wound on his already lacerated 
feelings. Presently a rumour circulated 
to the effect that a tribe of starlings had 
visited the covert at the close of the last 
hunting season, and foxes in consequence 
had refused to make a home of Pilkington 
Hill-side, thouo'h the owner had done his 
best to encourage their presence. 

Even then, until the very last moment, 
no one would believe that Pilkington 
actually held no specimen of the vulpine 
race. But when a quarter of an hour had 
elapsed, melancholy confirmation was 
given of the fact. Burnett blew his horn, 
and slowlv, at his siunmons, the reluctant 



A REGULAR "CLINKER." 5 

hounds crept out and came clustering 
around him with wistful yellow eyes, which 
seemed to say : " Don't be angry with us. 
It was not our fault. We did our best to 
find him, but he was not there." 

A short consultation now took place 
between huntsmen and master. The almost 
unprecedented event of Pilkington not fur- 
nishing the desired article had upset their 
calculations. Although the chance of a 
find was believed to be slight, it was now 
determined to call upon a long, narrow 
osier bed, lying close b}^, at the foot 
of the hill on which the company were 
assembled. So the field moved on, with 
hopes somewhat dashed by their non- 
success, and by the almost certain prospect 
of a long jog to the next covert. Whose 
was the blame, they knew not, but they 
felt injured and aggrieved. Hounds were 
perhaps more reasonable than bipeds. At 
all events they did not despond, and 



6 A CRACK COUNTY. 

were soon at work, drawing steadily and 
well. 

Five minutes passed without result. 
The spirits of the company sank to zero. 
Such a grand scenting morning as it 
seemed, too, and by the afternoon all the 
conditions might have changed. Was 
there anything so unfortunate ? Since 
Captain Straightem's death a spell of ill- 
luck had attended the hunt, and appeared 
likely to continue. So these giants of the 
chase bewailed themselves, like so many 
fretful and pampered children, who have 
not learnt to put up with the buffets of 
fate. Then, all of a sudden their whole 
mental attitude underwent a transforma- 
tion ; for from a dozen canine throats there 
came ringing out the deep, familiar music, 
which soon increased in volume, and made 
the echoes resound to its melodious notes. 
How cheering, how inspiriting they were 
to that sad multitude ! Ever}^ face beamed, 



A EEGULAR "CLINKER." 7 

the lines of every moutli relaxed in a 
satisfied smile. Already their anticipations 
proved correct, and scent was good at all 
events in covert. Eeynard took one 
swift turn up and down the whole length 
of the osier bed, hoping by so doing to 
baffle his pursuers ; but they were hot and 
keen, and left him little peace. Very 
shortly, finding the position untenable, he 
resolved to trust to his lissome limbs, and 
without further hesitation set his mask 
straight towards the open, boldly despising 
cowardly tactics. His long, red body, 
with its bushy brush could be seen stealing 
over the grass at a ra^^id rate. A hundred 
pairs of eyes viewed him, and half a score 
of manly voices simultaneously uttered a 
loud " Gone forrard away." If anything 
could have persuaded the fox to make 
haste, those shrill demoniacal yells would 
have done so. They alone were sufficient 
to strike terror to the vulpine heart, and 



8 A CEACK COUNTY. 

convince its owner of the necessity of 
exertion. 

Quick as lightning hounds dashed out of 
covert, and getting away close at their 
fox's heels, flung eagerly forwards, without 
once stooping to the scent. But at this 
juncture so critical to the interests of sport, 
those who ought to have known better, 
pressed and flurried the little ladies to such 
an extent, that they caused them to throw 
up their heads, before having had a chance 
of fairly settling to the line. 

" Hounds, gentlemen, please,'' pleaded 
Burnett half angrily, half imploringly. *' For 
goodness sake don't ride a-top of 'em. 
Steady there, steady." 

Momentary as was the check that ensued 
— indeed, hardly worthy of the name — it 
had its use, since it gave Eeynard an 
advantage, of which he promptly availed 
himself. A little breathing room was 
desirable, if only to choose his route and 



A REGULAR "CLINKER." 9 

the best mode of effecting an escape. And 
now the fun began in earnest. Hounds, 
after their brief uncertainty, raced ahead 
with a vi2[our deliofhtful to behold. Over 
the huge hundred-acre field sped the pur- 
suers, like an avalanche let loose, scattering 
in every direction ; some making off for the 
roads, some for the nearest gate, and others 
boldly pointing their horses' heads towards 
an extremelv hi^^h and formidable-lookinpj 
stake-bound hedg^e, throu^^h which the 
flying hounds had already disappeared. It 
was a " snorter " at starting, as more than 
one good man and brave seemed to think. 
Horses, too, like their masters, require 
warming, and prefer a reasonable impedi- 
ment to begin with. Fortunately there 
was no time to look and crane for those 
who would be with hounds. It was a case 
of harden your heart or lose your place, 
perhaps for the whole run. 

Doctor Lankester, Dot and Bob had 



10 A CRACK COU^'TY. 

been fortunate in getting away well, and 
were riding all in a cluster, only a few 
lengths behind Burnett, who, in order to 
keep within sight of his hounds, was 
sendinf]^ his horse alonoj with a right good 
will. 

Kingfisher, revelling in the enjoyment of 
stretching his limbs, was mad fresh, and 
pulled so hard that it was just as much as 
his rider could do to hold him. The fence 
was a big one, especially for the first, on an 
unknown horse. As they sailed down at 
•it, it looked even bigger, the take-off side 
being ornamented by a ver}^ wide and 
deep-cut ditch, into whose depths had 
been stuffed sundry recently-cut twigs from 
the newly-plashed hedge. A stiff binder 
ran all along the top, as thick round as a 
man's wrist. He who had fashioned this 
formidable man-trap was evidently an 
adept in the art, and knew how to defy 
hunters as well as lono--horned, broad- 



A EEGULAR "CLINKER." 11 

browed oxen. Anyhow, lie could not have 
devised a much more efficient stopper. But 
Kingfisher felt so wonderfully game and 
eager under her that Dot never hesitated 
for a moment. She judged, and judged 
rightly, that all the gallant horse wanted 
was to be close up with hounds, and in a 
position where he could see them con- 
stantly. 

Burnett rode first at the fence, but his 
horse got a little too near the ditch, and in 
consequence just toed the top-binder, which, 
not yielding an inch, caused him to pitch 
heavily on landing, though his practised 
and powerful rider soon recovered him. 
Kino'fisher, wild with excitement, almost 
tore the reins out of Dot's hands. His proud 
spirit could not brook the sight of one 
of his own race in front of him. The girl 
tried her very best to steady him, but was 
not successful in the attempt. As the next 
best thing, she gave him his head entirely. 



12 A CRACK COUNTY. 

resolving not to hinder if she could not 
help. 

Oh ! he had misjudged his distance. 
His stride was wrong ! A horrible sen- 
sation of calamity made her heart stand 
still. He was bound to fall. Not he ! 

As soon as he saw that black fringe of 
twigs under his feet, he put in just one 
little step, and the next moment gave a 
glorious bound and landed light as a 
chamois on the opposite side, clear- 
ing those ugly binders by at least half a 
foot. 

The warm blood surged back to Dot's 
heart in a triumphant wave, and elated all 
her being. She no longer mistrusted her 
horse, but, on the contrary, felt a wonder- 
ful confidence in him. 

"AVell done, Dot!" Dr. Lankester 
shouted out approvingly, as Sugarloaf 
landed within a few yards of her. " That 
was a nasty fence and no mistake. It is 



A EEaULAR "CLINKER." 13 

astonishing how many people have been 
choked off already." 

His words were true, for numbers were 
still coasting up and down, in search of a 
more practicable place, letting the precious 
minutes slip by rather than risk their 
necks over so uncompromising an impedi- 
ment. Even when a fox is found, he does 
not always afford unmitigated pleasure to 
the majority. 

Meantime Bob, after seeing Dot safely 
over, followed her example without delay. 
His horse made a magnificent fly, but the 
rider did not adhere to his saddle quite as 
closely as might have been desired by an 
observant critic. However, the trio were 
now together again, and felt well pleased 
with their performance, especially when 
they noticed the very select company of 
which they formed a part. It had become 
evident that this was no day for shirking. 

Hounds were gliding along the green 



14 A CRACK COUNTY. 

pastures at racing pace — mute, but intent 
on murder — and those who would be with 
them must take fence for fence, exactly as 
it came, without losin^^ a single second in 
search of the convenient gate. Even when 
they came to a deep-ploughed field, which 
stretched the girths of many a gallant 
steed, the scent still held good — too good 
some of the poor horses would have said, 
whose sides were panting, and whose 
nostrils were distended, till their outline 
formed an acute angle, beneath which the 
scarlet membrane showed clearl3\ 

" Take a pull, Dot ; take a pull," shouted 
the doctor, as his daughter careered past 
him like an arrow shot from a bow. " It's 
very heavy going, remember." 

" I would if I could, father, but I can't. 
He's so desperately keen, and I can't hold 
him," she called back in reply. 

Dr. Lankester glanced at the chestnut's 
beautiful thorouG^hbred form, with its cast- 



A EEGULAR '-CLINKER." 15 

iron muscles and long, sweeping stride, 
which covered the ground with the ease 
of machinery, and nodded his head re- 
assuringly. There was not much fear of 
harm befallino- her on such a horse, and, as 
he had prophesied, she had the '^ legs " of 
Sugarloaf, on whom the deep ground told. 

Dot's feather- weio^ht seemed nothincf to 
Kingfisher. He had been accustomed to 
carry close upon fourteen stone, and he 
simply revelled in the difference. This 
slight, brave girl was one after his own 
heart. Her delicate handling was even 
superior to his late master's, and did not 
interfere with his sensitive mouth. Could 
he but have given his testimony he doubt- 
less would have agreed with the well-known 
authority who stated " that there wouldn't 
be many falls if there were no bridles.'* 
Nine times out of ten it is the men 
themselves who are responsible for their 
mishaps, since they expect an animal to 



16 A CRACK COUNTY. 

jump held hard by the head — a sheer 
impossibility. 

Creak, crack, crash I Half-a-dozen reso- 
lute riders charged the next fence in line. 
It proved to be a blind double into a road, 
and was productive of many noisy scram- 
bles, and still noisier objurgations as horses 
floundered into the near or far ditches. 
Again Dot would have preferred to pull 
Kingfisher up to a trot and make him go 
slowly, but being more or less at his mercy 
she was forced to let him take it in his own 
fashion. 

And his majesty pleased to fly the 
double, instead of popping on and ofl^ the 
bank. But he flew it in brilliant form, 
though he rather over-shot the mark, since 
neither his rider nor himself was prepared 
for another fence leading out of the road, 
over which the pack had sped with almost 
undiminished speed. In fact he was so 
taken by surprise that for the first and last 



A REGULAR ''CLINKER." 17 

time in his life lie almost refused. Almost, 
but not quite ! 

For the generous blood of the Darley 
Arabian which flowed through his veins 
recoiled at such an act of cowardice, 
especially when hounds were running hard, 
as in the present instance. Quick as 
lightning he changed his mind, and hopped 
over like a stag. To Bob, who followed 
close in his wake, no sign of hesitation was 
visible. That brief moment of indecision 
remained a secret between Kingfisher and 
his rider, and one of which he already felt 
ashamed as he galloped swiftl}^ on. 

But Dot was more and more delisjhted 
with her steed, and leaning forwards cooed 
words of soft encouragement in his ear. 
So far the line had been an uncommonly 
stiff one^ and that double into the road 
caused almost as much " grief " as the 
starting fence. Dot saw no less than five 
riderless horses gallop past her, and, un- 
VOL. III. 35 



1« A CKACK COU^'TY. 

charitable as it may sound, the sif^ht 
increased her satisfaction, for it was im- 
possible to help feeling that she had suc- 
ceeded where others had failed ; although 
she was fully alive to the fact that the 
merit of the achievement belono^ed almost 
entirely to the finished performer on which 
Mr. Jarrett had been gfood enou^^h to 
mount her. Was he amoni:^ the fallen ? 
She hoped not. He deserved a better fate. 
No, close up galloped his good brown 
hunter, whilst Sugarloaf's white face was 
creeping along steadily but surely. Both 
Mr. Jarrett and her father had surmounted 
the difficulties of the double, and helped to 
swell the numbers of the little but resolute 
band now left with hounds. They were 
not many ; only about a dozen as far as 
she could tell, and she was the only lady. 

Dot's pulses throbbed with pride ; this 
was indeed a red-letter day in her ex- 
istence. 



CHAPTER II. 

" IF YOU MEAN LEAPING, DON't LOOK LONG." 

Eeynard, still finding himself liotly pur- 
sued, and beginning perhaps to feel a little 
beat by the pace, now bore away to the 
right, making for that beautiful, level grass 
country which spreads like a green spring- 
board between Worthino^ton and Cracklev. 
Fences here were of a fairer character 
and, to experienced hunters, rendered easy 
by the good, sound turf that formed such 
admirable takinoj-off and landinsf. No need 
to do follow-my-leader now. With a few 
exceptions half-a-dozen practicable spots 
presented themselves in every hedge, and 
the leaders sailed over each successive 
obstacle without drawing rein. For the 

35* 



20 A CRACK COUNTY. 

space of ten minutes it was more like 
steeplechasing than hunting. As they 
raced side by side horses laid back their 
ears, and evidently enjoyed the emulation 
as much as did their masters. 

To Dot, the relief of being able to stride 
alonof was immense. She could now let 
Kingfisher gallop, and rest her over-strained 
arms, the muscles of which had for some 
time past been quivering under the unac- 
customed tension. The gallant horse 
stretched out his neck and snatched gaily 
at the bit. A real fast thinc^ was what he 
revelled in, and he felt satisfied at last. 
With his fine blue eye fixed on the leading 
hounds, and turning of his own accord, to 
the right or to the left, exactly as he saw 
them bend, lie maintained a forward place 
throughout. 

Between Dot and himself a complete 
sympathy was by this time established. 
He had lone: since realized that she meant 



" IF YOU MEAN LEAPIXa, DON 'T LOOK LOXO." 2 1 

''going," and would neither irritate liis 
mouth nor baffle him at his fences, and she, 
on her part, had discovered his pulling 
arose solely from keenness and extra 
anxiety, and that he was in all respects a 
most brilliant and clever hunter. The 
worst of it was, she could not help 
breaking the tenth commandment, and 
wishing he were her very own ; for when 
other horses were falling to the rear, and 
holding out signals of exhaustion, it was 
such a delightful and intoxicating sensation 
to feel that Kingfisher could easily maintain 
his speed without distressing himself in the 
slightest degree, since whilst his companions 
were galloping he was only cantering. 

This knowledge added still more to Dot's 
elation. Her eyes sparkled, her cheeks 
were adorned by a warm flush that made 
them very beautiful to look at, and her 
small mouth opened in panting ecstasy. 
Oh! this was glorious. The enjoyment of 



22 A CRACK COUNTY. 

a lifetime seemed compressed into these 
fleeting minutes. She felt a different being, 
transported out of her usual, quiet, hum- 
drum self. Such a run made one believe 
that life was worth living, and was a rich 
and inestimable blessing for which people 
themselves were to be blamed if they did 
not enjoy. Danger! Who thought of 
damper when the blood coursed like wildfire 
in one's veins, and one's whole being 
thrilled with the rapture of the chase ? 
How strange that same rapture was, too, 
when one came to reflect upon it. All the 
host of horsemen and women, all the staff 
and retinue and expense, all the emulation, 
the heart-burniniTS. the ambition, the short- 
lived triumphs and long- remembered dis- 
appointments, just for a little red animal. 
Wherein did the attraction and fascination 
consist ? It was a species of madness, but 
a madness more insidious and excitinix than 
any known pleasure. The sense of pure 



" IF YOU MEAN LEAPING, DON'T LOOK LONG." 23 

animal enjoyment was so great. And yet 
wlien the day was done, when the fever had 
cooled and the chase over, what gain did it 
bring ! what profit to the mind ? Very 
little, if the answer were given truthfully. 
Bumps and blows and bruises to the body, 
and nought, or next to nought, to the 
brain. 

Some such thoucrhts flashed throus^h 
Dot's mind as she continued her victorious 
career and tried to analyze the strength 
and keenness of her emotions. But it was 
no time for introspective reflections. 
Another fence loomed ahead, and she 
promptly had to abandon them. There 
was a burning scent on the grass. 
The pace increased until it became some- 
thing terrific, and the company rapidly 
grew more and more select. A hurried, 
backward view revealed a tail nearly a 
mile in length, and the fields were dotted 
with black and scarlet specks, labouring 



24 A CKACK COUJsTY. 

along as best they could, and riding that 
hardest of all hard rides — a stern chase. 

Those immediately with hounds might 
have been counted on the fingers of one's 
two hands. On the left was Burnett, his 
horse showing unmistakable symptoms of 
having had enough. In his rear, a gallant 
cavalry officer, and a hard-riding farmer, 
mounted on a wonderful screw, that for 
several seasons past had scoffed at three 
and four hundred guinea hunters, with 
their sound limbs too good for use, and 
their big bodies full of thirty-three shillings 
a quarter oats. To the right, trying hard 
to maintain his pride of place, yet with the 
pace all the time against him, Doctor 
Lankester cut out the work, and continued 
to make a gallant struggle on his good 
grey mare. But her elevated tail and 
drooping head showed that her bolt also 
was nearly shot, unless an opportune check 
took place soon to enable her to get her 



" IF YOU MEAN LEAPING, DON'T LOOK LONG." 25 

wind. Sugarloaf was fast, but not a racer, 
and she had been asked to go at topmost 
speed for the last twenty minutes ; only her 
stout heart had kept her in the van so long. 
A solitary attendant followed the doctor's 
fortunes, a lad of sixteen or seventeen, 
riding a thoroughbred horse with a 
pedigree a yard long, who was being 
qualified for hunt steeplechases, and who, 
in spite of having embraced mother earth, 
was still to the fore. 

The central group consisted of Bob 
Jarrett and a remarkably select contingent. 
Served by the excellence of his nag, the 
former had for some time past gallantly 
shown the way to his immediate division, 
which consisted only of Dot Lankester and 
two well-known members of the hunt. 
Bob was riding a young blood-hunter of 
very superior quality, else he could never 
have held his own. 

But what he wanted in experience he 



26 A CRACK COUNTY. 

made up for in " pluck," and Dot could not 
help admiring the lion-hearted manner in 
which on one or two occasions he led the 
whole field. Courage always appeals to a 
woman. There are few things for which 
she entertains a greater liking and respect. 
Let her once convict a man of cowardice, 
and she never thinks the same of him 
again. He may be ever so nice, in a 
hundred different ways, but henceforth she 
invariably views him with a certain 
amount of contempt. Bob's nerve won 
him golden opinions from Dot, and once 
or twice her smile of approbation made his 
heart beat fast with rising hope. 

And now, this bold, stout-hearted fox, 
finding that as long as he kept to the grass 
his enemies pressed upon him closer and 
closer, resolved to make one last bid for his 
brush. He therefore tried the effect of a 
little dodging. No doubt he was pretty 
well done, and. therefore hailed the close 



"IF YOU MEAN LEAPING, DON'T LOOK LONG." 27 

proximity of a village with thanksgiving. 
A few ino-enious turns and twists mi^jlit 
baffle his mortal foes even at the eleventh 
hour. 

So he carefully wended his way through 
gardens and farmyards, past cottages and 
barns and outhouses. Yet the shelter he 
sought he could not find. None seemed 
entirely safe, not even that old, hollow tree 
standing in an orchard, whose roots had 
formed many little tortuous tunnels under 
the brown earth. Possibly, spades and fox- 
terriers flashed across his mind's eye. 

Nevertheless, he succeeded in em- 
barrassing his pursuers, and in obtaining 
a few minutes' respite. Just five and forty 
minutes after he had left the osier-bed, 
hounds threw up their heads, and looking 
uncertainly about them, came to a sudden 
halt within one field of Smallborough 
villaofe. Horsemen flun^^ themselves from 
their panting steeds, and critically examined 



28 A CRACK COU^'Tr. 

scratched legs and spur-marked sides, 
holding the bridles in their hands so as to 
be able to remount at any moment. But 
the poor nags seemed in no hurry to renew 
their exertions — quivering tails, heaving 
flanks, outstretched necks, told a sad tale 
of distress in the majority of cases. 

Meantime, hounds were feathering about 
in several directions, with noses and sterns 
both busy. Burnett let them try to puzzle 
it out, but they failed to take up the line. 
Then, with a ringing cheer and a " huic 
forrard, forrard, m}^ beauties ! " he lifted 
them, and made a scientific cast, whilst his 
followers watched the proceedings without 
movino^, and wondered how the dickens it 
was, that in ten good runs out of a dozen, 
those infernal roadsters invariably contrived 
to turn up just when they were not wanted, 
and did the greatest possible amount of 
mischief. Helter - skelter, gallopy - gallop, 
here they come, clattering over the stony 



" IF YOU MEAN LEAPING, DONT LOOK LONG." 29 

macadam at topmost speed, and with a 
ruthless disregard for joints and sinews. 
Such a noise as they made too. A regi- 
ment of soldiers would have appeared 
silent as mice in comparison. 

Of course they headed the fox. That 
was a foregone conclusion, for was there 
ever a roadster who didn't ? But to this 
fact the whole tribe are contemptuously in- 
different. They don't go out to hunt^ but 
to gallop. Not on the grass, mind you. 
Not over the spacious green fields where 
they could do little harm. No ; they are 
afraid. They might come across mole-hills, 
or rabbit-holes, or even have to jump, an 
idea which makes the blood in their veins 
run cold. Only on the road do they feel 
safe from all such horrid possibilities, and 
therefore to the road do they cleave, like 
limpets to a rock. But we will give the 
mighty army of roadsters their due, and to 
do them justice, they can talk. Not one of 



30 A CRACK COUNTY. 

the number wlio has not some marvellous 
experiences to record, and who is not 
supremely satisfied with his individual 
performances. Perhaps it is only natural 
that the men who have jumped every fence 
as it came, without shirking, who have 
imperilled their limbs, if not their necks, 
and made acquaintance with mother earth 
in her hardest and most disai^reeable form 
— namely, when she rises up and greets you 
between the eyes — should harbour a con- 
temptuous hostility against the spiritless 
babblers who come swarmin<]^ around the 
moment all danger is over. 

But by this time Burnett had succeeded 
in hitting off the line of his fox. Whilst 
trotting down a road the hounds suddenly 
stopped, and one by one, creeping under a 
stiff, hog-backed stile, once more threw 
their tongues in deadly fashion, which 
made all the dismounted gentlemen leap to 
their horse's backs, tossing away just lit 



'' IF YOU MEAN LEAPING, DON T LOOK LONG." 31 

cigars and half- tasted sandwiches. Perhaps 
they would not have been in quite such a 
hurry had they known what a formidable 
obstacle awaited them. 

Their ardour had cooled a little, and few 
of the horses displayed much spirit. They 
would have preferred some extra minutes' 
repose, but it was not to be. In spite of 
the pace, Eeynard had still a fair share of 
life left in him. 

Nevertheless, that same hog-backed stile 
was by no means a pleasing prospect to 
tired- out animals still catchino- at their 
breath. Yet there was not any other egress, 
the fence on either side being quite seven 
feet high, and as thick and solid as a stone 
wall. The thino- had to be done, but no- 
body liked to attempt it first. Even 
Burnett paused, though the exhausted 
condition of his horse rendered the delay 
not merely wise, but imperative. If only 
hounds would check. But no; they stole 



32 A CRACK COUNTY. 

ahead with renewed confidence, every now 
and again one or other of them giving 
tongue, and all their bristles up, as if their 
fox were quite close in front. 

Doctor Lankester was a brave man, 
and, in spite of his forty odd years, had 
nerves of iron. His blood was up. Sugar- 
loaf happened to be particularly good at 
timber, and she had in a measure regained 
her wind. His daughter and Mr. Jarrett 
were among the little anxious throng who 
blocked the roadway. (The roadsters had 
already galloped off.) 

Dot knew the meaning of that keen 
sparkle in her father's eye, accompanied by 
a sudden contraction of the brow. It 
signified business. 

" You are not going to jump it, are you, 
papa ? " she inquired with some un- 
easiness. 

" Yes," came the resolute reply. Then, 
looking round, he sang out, quoting the 



*' IF YOU MEAN LEAPING, DON'T LOOK LONG." 33 

Australian poet, poor Adam Lindsay 
Gordon, for whose verses lie entertained a 
great admiration : 

" Look before you leap if you like, 

But if you mean leaping, don't look long, 
Or the weakest place will soon grow stiff, 
And the strongest doubly strong." 

" Give me a little room, there's good 
fellows," he wound up persuasively. 

And with that he went at the stile. 

A tremendous rattle. Sugarloaf hit all 
round, but the pair were over with a 
scramble. Doctor Lankester looked back 
to see who would follow his example. It 
was a very awkward leap after so long and 
fast a run. Still, was nobody coming ? 

Yes, there was one, and one moreover of 
his own kith and kin. He shuddered and 
closed his eyes. The girl inherited her 
father's spirit, but he had rather she had 
been less brave. He tried to call out and 
tell her not to come, but Dot had already 
started. 

VOL III. 36 



34 A CEACK [COUNTY. 

She set Kingfisher resohitely at the stile, 
and just touched him -with her hunting crop. 
Bob uttered an exclamation of alarm, 
which immediately changed to one of ad- 
miration, for the noble hunter, getting his 
leofs well under him, bounded with the 
lightness and springiness of a fawn over 
the stiff, unyielding timber, giving a playful 
grunt of satisfaction as he landed. Dot 
patted his swelling neck enthusiastically. 
He was a king among hunters. 

" Oh, you beauty ! You are a real 
ripper ! " she exclaimicd, using a slang ex- 
pression for want of any better to convey 
the full warmth of her sentiments. 

Bob felt he should despise himself if he 
were outdone by a woman, but more 
especially by such a. slight, delicate-bodied 
little thing. Besides, he could not bear to 
let her out of his sight. His love was 
rapidly becoming a vehement passion. 
Therefore he also rode at the stile, but 



'< IF YOU MEAN LEAPING-, DON T LOOK LONG." 35 

he went at it a little too fast, and giving 
his horse a job in the mouth, flurried him 
unnecessarily. As a consequence, Paragon 
caught the top bar with both knees, and 
executed a complete somersault, for some 
little time lying quite motionless where he 
fell. 

When Bob rose from the ground he 
found that Dot had pulled up, and was 
looking commiseratingly down at him, with 
an air of anxious pity disquieting her sweet, 
young face. 

" Oh, Mr. Jarrett ! " she cried, " are you 
hurt ? " 

" No, not a bit," he answered cheerily. 
"Don't wait for me; I'm all right, and 
hounds are still running. I shall be in at 
the death yet. You go on." 

As he turned to put his foot in the 
stirrup — Paragon fortunately having stood 
still after his fall — Bob suddenly became 
aware of the fact that a pair of very blue 

36* 



36 A CEACK COUKTY. 

ej^es were staring at him from the road 
with an exceedingly scornful and outraged 
expression. Their owner wore a scarlet 
jacket, and had arrived on the scene just 
in time to witness Dot Lankester's bold 
jump and Bob's unsuccessful attempt to 
follow suit. 

"You'd have done much better if you 
had taken my advice, and stuck to the 
roads," she called out sarcastically, and 
with no evidence of concern at his mishap. 

" I don't think so, 3^our ladyship, though 
I admit that it's all a matter of opinion." 

" Who's your friend ? " she rejoined, in a 
tone which made his blood boil. 

But he ignored this interrogation 
altogether, and galloped off in pursuit of 
the hounds, who were quite a couple of 
fields ahead, gaining inch by inch upon the 
failing quarry, whose aim was now evident 
to those acquainted with the country. 
As his last resource, pcor Pug was 



" IF YOU MEAN LEAPING, DON'T LOOK LONG." 37 

gallantly trying to make for some earths 
about two miles distant from Smallborouorh, 
in whose safe depths many a hunted fox 
had ere now saved his brush. Would he 
reach them or would he not ? If he did, 
should he find them open or closed? How 
his vulpine heart must have beat with 
anxiety. For the answer to this question 
meant life or death to him. 

The poor little red animal was very, very 
weary. His beautiful brusli was all drag- 
gled and soiled, his limbs were stiff, his 
body damp with perspiration. 

Hounds, horses, men, all were against 
him, and yet for the best part of an hour he 
had defied them with indomitable energy. 

Surely he deserved his life. If foxes 
must pay the penalty, then let the bad ones 
go, and leave the good, straight-running, 
stout-hearted fellows for another day. 

They are not so plentiful that we should 
slay them willingly, or rejoice when we do 



38 A CEACK COU^■TY. 

SO. Courage, even in the mucli-maligned 
" thief of the world," merits some recogni- 
tion. A good fox plays a desperate game, 
and if he wins, none should grudge him 
the victory. In any case, the pains and 
terrors of death have been anticipated. 

" Only an animal," say some. '' It does 
not matter whether it suffers or not." 

Perhaps so ; yet how know these good 
folk, with their narrow-minded positivism, 
that man differs from the brute creation as 
greatly as they flatter themselves ? There 
are some very strange points of similitude ; 
amongst others the burden of pain which 
every living thing has to bear, and which 
incontestibly connects beast and biped. 
Life is painful, so is death, to all creatures 
created by God. 

The hunted animal straining every nerve 
to escape from his tormentors, may not 
possess a soul, according to our sense of 
the word, but yet he feels. 



CHAPTEE III. 

EUN TO GROUND. 

Dot LxVnkester for one, had no wish to see 
the poor fox killed. Her tender heart 
recoiled from any approach to cruelty, and, 
much as she delighted in the fun, the 
movement and excitement of hunting, the 
final obsequies always brought a sense of 
depression, not wholly free from disgust. 
Her sympathies were invariably with the 
blain, not the slayers. If the chase could 
have been conducted without destroying 
life, she would have liked it even better 
than she did, for she never could bear to 
witness the tortured creature's dying 
struggles, or the subsequent dismember- 
ment of his stiffened body. Well and 



40 A CBACK COUKTY. 

pluckily as she rode to hounds, she was 
essentially feminine by nature, and had all 
a true woman's sympathy with and com- 
passion for suffering in every shape or 

form. 

Therefore it was an intense relief to her 
feelings when, too closely pressed to reach 
the earths already spoken of, Pug, to the 
infinite disappointment of huntsman and 
hounds, succeeded in gaining the shelter 
of an unsuspected drain, running across one 
corner of a large grass field. For several 
minutes previously the eager pack had 
raced him in full view of the scarcely less 
ea^rer field. Horses and men alike cau^^ht 
the enthusiasm of their canine friends. The 
air rang with different cries proceeding from 
many throats, human and otherwise. Twice 
old Merry lass, always foremost in the fray, 
and leading by a good couple of lengths, 
snapped at him, and almost rolled him 
over. Despair lent him fresh lleetness of 



KUN TO GROUND. 41 

foot, but such supreme effort could not be 
maintained. It seemed any odds against 
the fox. Fifty seconds more, and they 
must have had him, when suddenly he 
disappeared from vision. 

A dismal howl burst from his thwarted 
foes, as with hanging tongues and open 
jowls, they gathered round the small 
aperture through which their prey had 
squeezed, but which w^ould not allow of 
the passage of their larger bodies. They 
felt themselves baffled when most they 
deserved success, and took the disappoint- 
ment sorely to heart, as their angry and 
excited baying testified. 

Once more horsemen dismounted, and 
horses opened their heated nostrils to the 
refreshing breeze, and stood panting, whilst 
the white foam on their sides and necks 
gradually hardened and grew stiff. Then 
watches were produced from waistcoat 
pockets and compared minutely. 



42 A CPtACK COUNTY. 

After some consultation, it was agreed 
that this fine run, including the slight 
check at the commencement, and the 
longer one in Smallborough village, had 
lasted exactly one hour and a half ; the 
first forty-five minutes at racing pace, the 
remainder slower, but still sufiiciently fast 
to tax the powers of most ordinary hunters. 
Of the stoutness and gallantry of the fox 
there could be no two opinions, since 
Burnett was confident he was the same 
animal that had been viewed away from 
the osier-bed. Even those most murder- 
ously inclined admitted that so gallant a 
fellow deserved his life ; but huntsmen are 
proverbially a blood-thirsty race, actuated 
by few sentiments of pity, and Burnett 
was no exception to the rule. His 
humanity was completely subordinate to 
the love he bore his hounds, and he 
could not bear to see his darlings deprived 
of their due. The better they had hunted, 



EUN TO GROUND. 43 

the more they merited reward. They 
deserved blood, and blood — if it were 
possible — he was determined they should 
have, and for himself another mask to 
hang up over the kennel door. 

Therefore one of the whips was immedi- 
ately despatched to borrow spades and a 
terrier. He shortly reappeared on the 
scene, accompanied by a small army of 
idle men and boys, who had gleefully 
sallied forth from Smallborouo'h in order 
to watch the chase, and who now set to 
work with a will at either end of the 
drain, which they sought to enlarge. As is 
usual on such occasions, every one had 
either an opinion or advice to offer. After 
a while, the proceedings, being unattended 
by success, grew wearisome to a degree. 
No amount of digging could persuade 
Eeynard to bolt. He altogether declined 
a fresh contest, preferring to endure a 
martyrdom of terror rather than face that 



4i A CEACK COUNTY, 

row of cruel, wide-open mouths, with their 
hot breath and sharp white teeth. 

When over half-an-hour had gone by, 
and some significant grumbling began to 
be heard amongst the best subscribers to 
the hunt, Burnett was at length reluctantly- 
forced to give the fox up. 

It was too soon to go home, so, though 
hounds and horses had had pretty well 
enough, Lord Littelbrane resolved to draw 
again ; a decision which met with the 
approval of the majority. 

When this was finally settled and people 
began to move ofT, Dot, who had been 
talking to some friends, rode up to Bob's 
side and said : 

" Mr. Jarrett, I come to you for instruc- 
tions." 

"Wliat about," he replied. "I hope 
you do not look upon me as a mentor." 

" Oh ! dear no ; but as I am riding your 
horse I do not like to keep him out longer 



KUN TO GROUND. 45 

than you tliirik fit. Therefore will you tell 
me honestly if I ought to go home ? " 

" And will you tell me in the same frank 
and candid spirit, whether you yourself are 
tired?" 

" I ? Not a bit. I mean," endeavouring 
to be strictly truthful, " only a very little." 

" And you would like just to see what 
hounds do, of course. Come, Miss Lankester, 
confess." 

" Well, yes, I should ; if you don't mind 
about Kingfisher." 

" Mind ? Why should I mind ? As far 
as 1 can judge he is fresher than any other 
horse that went through the run. He 
makes nothing of your weight." 

" I don't think you could do the liorse 
any harm by staying out a little longer, 
Dot," here interposed her father, who had 
overheard the above conversation. " Lord 
Littelbrane has given Burnett orders to 
draw Kapthorne, which is all on our way 



46 A CRACK COUNTY. 

home, and if the hounds don't find there, 
they are bound to jog back in the direction 
of the kennels. So let's be starting. Our 
horses have 2fot cold enouo-h as it is. That 
digging-out work is always detestable." 

Hounds and huntsman now made a fresh 
move, followed by a procession, consider- 
ably diminished since the morning, though 
what it wanted in quantity it made up for 
in qualit}^ those who remained to test the 
further fortunes of the day being mostly 
good men and true. 

Burnett let the hounds proceed at a 
leisurely pace. They still seemed tired 
after their recent exertions, and a bit down- 
hearted at the escape of their fox, on whom 
they had surely counted. Neither did the 
old hunters present appear to approve of 
this new call on their powers. After being 
at fever-heat their blood had got thoroughly 
chilled, from standing- about so loncf in the 
cold afternoon air, and manv of them 



RUN TO GROUND. 47 

seemed very stiff and weary, their morning 
ardour having entirely evaporated. 

Bob had been looking about for his 
second horseman, who, up till now, had 
failed to put in an appearance, but just as 
the cavalcade was jogging slowly along 
through Smallborough, and the public- 
houses were being besieged by a thirsty 
host for beer, or anything they could 
produce in the way of drink, he spied him 
issuing from a back yard, and immediately 
changed horses. 

Paragon had probably sprained himself 
when he fell, for he was now quite lame, 
and Bob felt only too glad to get off his 
back, since nothing is more trying to the 
feelings of a humane man than to be forced 
to ride a tired and halting animal. That 
irregular bobbing up and down of the ears 
is a most unpleasant sight to tender-hearted 
people. 

By the time Bob had scolded his groom 



48 A CRACK COUNTY. 

for not having come up with the others, 
giv^en him strict orders not to take Paragon 
out of a walk, and made friends with liis 
fresh steed — a very handsome bay, with 
rather a wicked eye — he had fallen some 
little way in the rear of his companions. 
He was just emerging from the yard where 
he had mounted, with the intention of 
making up lost ground, when, to his 
inlinite discomfiture, he found himself 
suddenly accosted by no less a person than 
Lady De Fochsey. He smothered an 
exclamation of annoyance. 

Nemesis seemed to pursue him in tlie 
shape of this woman, and he blamed 
himself a thousand times for ever havinij 
been such a weak fool as to give her 
encouragement, when he knew quite well 
in his own heart that she was, and always 
would be, absolutely indilTerent to him. 
I3ut he would take precious good care how 
he did so ao-ain. He wanted none of her 



EUN TO GROUND. 49 

specious entanglements and artificial love- 
making. He might, perhaps, have for- 
given her for being silly, but he could not 
forsfive her for bein^? a bore. Oh! if 
Lady De Fochsey could have read his 
thou2fhts ! 

But her ladyship also nourished a 
grievance, and felt she had a crow to 
pluck with her quondam friend. He had 
been singularly inattentive throughout the 
day, and being both piqued and indignant 
she wanted to know the reason wdiy her 
spiritual affinity had not responded more 
readily to the advances graciously made 
him. Were they of too delicate and 
impalpable a nature ? She could hardly 
believe it. 

Thouo^h carinf^ for huntincr more on 
account of the society than the sport. Lady 
De Fochsey went fairly well at times, 
especially when she wished to impress an 
admirer with her powers of equitation. 
VOL. ]ir. 37 



5'J A CRACK COUNTY. 

She had been quite ready to do this in 
Bob's case, had he but given her a chance 
and displa3^ed just a little consideration ; 
but that stake-bound fence was a size too 
big, and choked her off at starting. As 
well as she could, she had sedulously- 
striven to keep an eye upon the young 
inan^ but her jealous}^ had not been fully 
aroused until she witnessed his attempt to 
follow Dot Lankester out of the road and 
over the stile. Having scuttled round by 
a gate, and the concluding portion of the 
run being over a comparatively easy 
country, she had ridden the line after a 
fashion. 

True, forty or fifty people going first, 
contrived to divest the fences of much of 
their stiffness, but still her ladyship was 
near enough to hounds to be able to see 
what the leaders were about. And each 
time she looked she saw her medium — her 
aiUuity — her precious psychological edu- 



EUN TO GEOUND. 51 

cator, ridinof with tliat little insioiiificant 
slip of a girl on the chestnut horse. 

Who could this young person be ? She 
— Lady De Foclisey — had not the slightest 
kno ,vledge of her, had never even noticed 
her out hunting before, though of course 
had it not been for Mr. Jarrett's absurd con- 
duct, there was no reason why she should. 

The young person — it pleased her to 
designate her enemy thus — evidently moved 
in a humble social sphere. She was a 
nobody. Why ? Oh ! because of her 
" get up." The tail of Dot's habit-body 
(Lady De Foclisey never had an opportunity 
of seeing the front) was cut in a fashion 
quite four years old, and moreover it was 
ornamented by four buttons below the 
waist instead of two ; a thing which, in the 
eyes of a lady who wore " pink," stamped 
the owner at once. Every woman in 
society knew that four buttons had gone 
out ever so loni? a^o, indeed that thev had 



C2 A CRACK COUNTY. 

never met with approval amongst the elite. 
Dot's habit proclaimed her insignificance. 

All the same, Lady De Fochsey scented 
a rival, and was agitated by the mere 
suspicion of Mr. Jarrett's proving indifferent 
to her own charms. It would be beyond a 
joke if, when for the first and last time in 
her life she had fallen desperately in love 
with a man, because she recognised in him 
certain lofty attributes which harmonized 
with her own nature, that man were to 
have tlie audacity and the inconceivable 
bad taste to get up a flirtation with another 
woman right under her very nose. The 
thing must be inquired into, and imme :li- 
ately. 

" Well ! Mr. Jarrett," she exclaimed 
with forced amiability. " I have hardly 
had a w^ord with you to-day." 

He bowed. *' No, your ladyship. 
Hounds have kept us otherwise em- 
ployed." 



EUN TO GROUND. 53 

" Ah ! those hounds. I don't know 
whether to feel angry with them or not. 
But, no matter. Have you enjoyed 
yourself ? " 

" Exceedingly, up to the present 
moment." 

" You have friends staying with you, 
have you not ? " she inquired, as they 
trotted on at a brisk pace. 

" Oh, dear, no," he answered, thrown 
off his guard. " What made you think 
so ?" 

" Isn't the beautiful being staying at 
Straighten! with whom you haVe been 
riding about all day long, to the total 
exclusion of your other acquaintances ? " 
She could not help infusing a little vinegar 
into the interrogation. 

" I have hardly any acquaintances 
except yourself, and really," reddening to 
the roots of his hair, " I do not know 
whom you mean by the ' beautiful being.' " 



54 A CEACK COUNTY. 

" Oh ! nonsense, don't pretend to be so 
innocent. You know quite well that I'm 
talking about that little dowdy girl, in the 
funny old-fashioned habit, which looks 
as if it belonofed to some antediluvian 
period." 

Bob bit his lips, but made no reply. 
To tell the truth, he was too much annoyed 
to speak, unless absolutely obliged. But 
his companion left him no peace. 

" Who is she ? " she persisted, bent on 
satisfying her curiosit}'. 

" She is what every woman is not," he 
rejoined shortly, " a lady." 

It was her turn to colour now. The 
words mii:rht have meant nothimr, but she 
did not exactly like them, especially coming 
from him. 

"Oh! of course," she retaliated with a 
toss of her head. " One takes that for 
granted, but even if she is a lady, I 
suppose so remarkable a fact, and one I 



RUN TO GROUND. 53 

should never have guessed without being 
told, does not prevent her from having a 



name." 



"Xo, naturally it does not." 

" Well? dear me, how tiresome you are, 
what is it ? " 

"Lankester," said Bob with extreme 
reluctance, wishino^ he misfht sink into the 
earth; or she might sink into the earth, so 
as to put an end to this odious and em- 
barrassing cross-examination. 

"What!" exclaimed Lady De Fochsey 
sneeringly. " The wife of the little doctor 
who rides so hard, and who, now I come to 
think of it, lives in your village ? " 

" N"o, not the wife ; the daughter." 

"The daughter. But, my dear Bob, 
that's ever so much worse." 

" I really can't see why," he retorted, be 
ginning to lose his temper. 

" Can't you. A flirtation with a married 
woman in so humble a sphere may be 



56 A CRACK COU>'TY. 

ridiculous, but it is not likely to have any 
serious consequences." 

" I don't know what you mean b}^ 
' serious consequences,' " he said angrily. 

She lifted up her head and looked him 
straiofht in the face. 

" Bob,'' she said impressively, " I think 
you know me well enough by this time to 
be aware how thoroughly I have your 
interest at heart." 

" I am sure you are very good," he 
mumbled sheepishly, not knowing exactly 
what to say in return. 

*' Not at all, but I intend to presume 
upon our friendship to give you some 
sensible advice, which I hope you will 
take in the same spirit as it is meant." 

" Thanks, you are awfully kind, Lady De 
Fochsey ; but reall}^, I'm not particularly 
fond of advice." 

'* Never mind, it's for your good." 



CHAPTEE IV. 

BOB AND HIS KIXDRED SPIRIT FALL OUT. 

*' Advice generally is for one's good, in the 
opinion of the giver, though not always 
in that of the recipient," he said 
plaintively. 

" Now, look here Bob, if you don't 
look out, 3^ou'll end by making a fool of 
yourself." 

" Thank you, Lady De Fochsey. Is 
that what you wanted to say ? " 

" Partl}^, but not entirely ; I wish to bring 
the fact home to your mind. You have 
evidently taken some sort of silly, boyish 
fancy to this young person whose name is 
Lankester " 

" Miss Lankester," he interrupted sternly. 



68 A CRACK COUKTY. 

"Well, Miss Lankester, if you like it 
better," she resumed, a little frightened by 
his tone ; " we need not quarrel about a 
mere matter of nomenclature. But what 
T intended to say was this : It won't do," 
looking at him fixedly ; " you'll have to 
drop it." 

If she had been a man, he could have 
struck her. As it was, he made a power- 
ful effort, and curbed his wrath sufficiently 
to say, with what was meant for biting 
sarcasm : 

"I'm much obliged to your ladyship, 
and if all advice were like vours its frank- 
ness would atone for its sin^ularitv. But 
allow me to state that it is quite uncalled 
for." 

"Bob, Bob, don't be so foolish and stiff- 
necked." 

" I may be foolish, but I am not stiff- 
necked." 

" Yes, vou are — both. You are fallimx 



BOB AND HIS KINDRED SPIKIT FALL OUT. 59 

into a regular trap, and wilfully shutting 
your e3^es to facts." 

" Trap is a very strong word to employ." 

" It may be, but it's the only one that 
correctly expresses the state of affairs. 
Those people are making a most shameful 
set at }'ou, es^Decially the girl — little impu- 
dent minx ! " 

" No such thing," he said indignantly. 
" You are very much mistaken there." 

Her ladyship gave a superior smile, which 
seemed to say, " Tut, it's absurd to deny 
the truth. You can't deceive me ; I'm far 
too sharp." Then she said with ever in- 
creasing: animation : 

" The fact of the matter is. Bob, you are 
new to English life, and don't understand 
all the petty plotting and scheming that 
goes on in our country villages to secure a 
rich young man with twelve or fifteen 
thousand a year, for a husband. No doubt 
it woukl be a very excellent tiling for Miss 



CO A CRACK COUNTY. 

Lankester, the doctor's (laughter, to become 
Mrs. Robert Jarrett, and mistress of 
Straightem Court. But looking upon it 
impartialh^, would it be quite so excellent 
a thing for Mr. Eobert Jarrett? There 
can be but one answer to that question. 
Certainly not. Mr. Jarrett would lose by 
the connection, and do himself an infinity 
of harm. This is a very fastidious neigh- 
bourhood. Fortune has placed you in an 
elevated position, but if you wish not to 
disgrace that position, and to get on in the 
county, 3^ou must marry some one of birth 
belonging to your own station, instead of 
the first little nobody who happens to take 
your fancy. Bob, dear Bob," haying her 
hand on his horse's mane for a second, and 
looking coaxingly up into his face, "I 
don't think you ought to have much 
dilliculty in finding a suitable person, if 
you are really and truly desirous of getting 
married." 



BOB AND HIS KINDRED SPIRIT FALL OUT. 61 

He was by no means a vain man, yet as 
he bashfully turned away his head, so as 
to avoid her winning glances, he could not 
prevent certain embarrassing thoughts 
from flashini? across his brain. If he were 
not very prudent in his conduct, this 
woman was quite capable of getting him 
into a most horrible mess almost before he 
knew what he was about ; she was so 
artful, so insinuating, so — so S7iake-\ike. 
He was fiercely vexed, too, at having his 
secret dragged to light and dissected in 
this ruthless manner. Had he been sure 
of Dot's sentiments, it might not have 
mattered so much, but as things were, 
it was insufferable hearing his affairs 
discussed. 

" I don't care twopence whether I get on 
in the county or not," he said irritably. 
" And as for getting married — surely one 
may speak to a girl without being imme- 
diatelv accused of making love to her." 



62 A CRACK COUNTY. 

" I said that this Miss Lankester was 
making love to you." 

" Then, Lady De Fochsey, you said what 
was not true, and I must ask you not to 
repeat the remark." 

" Hoity, toity ! What a temper you've 
got, to be sure. It strikes me the ' beau- 
tiful being ' has played her cards uncom- 
monly well, to have produced so great an 
impression in so short a space of time." 

Lady De Fochsey was aware of the fact 
that in letting her jealousy get the better 
of her prudence, she was only losing 
ground, but she could not help herself. 
She was too angry and too mortified to be 
wise. 

"You don't seem to understand," said 
Bob, trying to allay .his companion's sus- 
picions, " that it is but natural I should 
feel gratefully inclined towards the only 
people who have shown me any civility 
since I set foot in Stifl'shire." 



EOB AND HIS KIXDEED SPIRIT FALL OUT. 63 

Here was an opening of wliicli she 
promptly took avail. 

" Oh ! Bob ! how can you say such a 
thing ? Have not / shown you civility, 
and — and — " lowering^ her voice to a 
caressing whisper — " would not I show 
you ever so much more, if only you would 
let me ? It is you who are stand-ofF, not 
me." 

" There's a great diifference between being 
stand-ofF and being too gushing," he 
replied with downright brutality, feeling 
that this must be put a stop to at once if 
he would retain his liberty of action. 

The remark incensed her beyond measure, 
proving as it did, that she had completely 
failed to produce any permanent impression. 

" I suppose you mean to imply that / 
am too gushing, because I was foolish 
enough to think you a kindred spirit. Let 
me assure you, I have quite recovered 
from the delusion." And she drew herself 



64 A CRACK COUNTY. 

up and looked at him with flashing eyes ; 
for this last observation of his had offended 
her past forgiveness. 

" Indeed, Lady De Fochsey, I had no 
intention of hurting your feelings." 

"Pooh! my feelings" (hysterically). 
" What do you care for them ? Go to 
your doctor's daughter, since you have the 
bad taste to prefer her to me. I shall rise 
high in the astral plane, but you — you will 
sink, dragged down by your low connections, 
and in all probability reappear in some 
future existence as a donkey or an ape. 
That will be your fate, and one most richly 
deserved, for you possessed possibilities of 
ennoblement, and refused to develop them ; 
opportunities of psychic'culture were given 
you, but your base, sensual, material nature 
triumphed over the^diviner elements, and 
3'ou proved yourself unworthy. Good-bye, 
Mr. Jarrctt ; I have done with vou for ever. 
Some day, when my free and emancipated 



BOB AND HIS KINDKED SPIEIT FALL OUT. 65 

spirit is soaring in waves of ether, yours 
will be prisoned in a low, bestial form, 
degraded and debased by your own fault, 
and by your wilful insensibility to elevating 
influences." 

And so saying, the outraged and 
'' charming " woman rode swiftly away, 
leaving her companion in a state of utter 
bewilderment. What had he done to 
provoke her wrath ? Again and again he 
tried to assign a reason. He could not 
believe that jealousy alone was responsible 
for such extraordinary behaviour, and 
finally fell back upon the conclusion that 
most decidedly she had a bee in her bonnet. 
Well ! he had got rid of her at any rate, 
which was something, though he was sorry 
an actual rupture should have taken place. 
Still he scarcely blamed himself. Her 
ladysliip's conduct from first to last had 
been eccentric, embarrassing and impossible. 
VOL. III. 38 



66 A CRACK COUNTY. 

Was it his fault that he could not respond 
to her advances, or profess a belief in all 
the spiritualistic shams she employed, as a 
cloak to sanctify her flirtations ? He 
hardly thought so. Anyhow a good 
hunting run of three quarters of an 
hour soon caused him to dismiss the 
matter from his mind — at least temporarily. 

When the chase was over, and the 
Lankesters turned their horses' heads 
towards home, he immediately followed 
suit. He was beginning to feel almost 
like one of the family, and the day's 
sport had done a great deal to consolidate 
friendship on either side. 

In Doctor Lankester's presence, the con- 
versation could not assume a ver}^ personal 
character and almost as if she were con- 
scious of this fact, Dot chatted away with 
unusual freedom and gaiety. 

" Are you coming to our hunt steeple- 
chases, Mr. Jarrett ? " she inquired, after 



EOB AND HIS KINDRED SPIRIT FALL OUT. 67 

every incident of the two runs had been 
fully discussed with retrospective satis- 
faction. 

" What races ? " he asked, making the 
question an excuse to sidle close up to 
Kingfisher. 

"TheMorbey Anstead meeting. It comes 
off at the end of next week." 

" This is the first I've heard of it. You 
see how remiss I am in the county news. 
Are you going by any chance ? " glancing 
shyly at her. 

" I haven't an idea. It depends so much 
upon papa. But I should like to go 
immensely." 

Bob made no immediate reply. He was 
maturing a most delightful plan which, 
at her words, seized strong hold of his 
imagination, and opened out fresh oppor- 
tunities of meeting. 

" Look here, doctor," he said after a bit, 
" you and your daughter and Mrs. 

?)8* 



68 A CRACK COUNTY. 

Lankester had much better come to these 
races with me. It's no use our going in 
separate traps when we live so close to one 
another. There's a big old omnibus in my 
coach-house, which would be just the thing 
for a day's outing, and of course I'll 
provide lunch, drink and all the rest of it. 
Eh ! what do you say to the proposition ? " 

" An excellent one, as far as the 
Lankester family are concerned," replied 
the doctor heartily, who by this time had 
conceived a wonderful fancy for Bob, and 
accepted this offer of hospitality without 
any feelings of false pride. " I think I can 
answer for Dot, and as for myself, next to 
a day's hunting, there's nothing I like more 
than a day's steeplechasing, if only I can 
leave my patients." 

" That's settled, then," said Bob. " Miss 
Dot," turning to the girl, " I count upon 
you not to forget the arrangement, or to 
throw nie over at the last moment." 



BOB AND HIS KIN DEED SPIRIT FALL OUT. 69 

" Very well, Mr. Jarrett," she replied, 
thinking how kind and good-natured he 
was. " I shall endeavour to prove that 
your confidence is not misplaced. But you 
will spoil us if you go on at this rate." 

They continued their homeward journey 
until the red-brick houses of Straightem 
village peered through the misty twilight. 
The moment had come to part. Bob 
reluctantly held out his hand. The doctor 
wrung it warmly. His wife's statement 
was quite forgotten, therefore he could 
behave naturally. 

" Good-bye, Jarrett," he exclaimed. " I 
am sorry this pleasant day has come to an 
end." 

" And so am I," rejoined Bob ; " but I 
hope we shall spend many similar ones in 
each other's company. Good-bye, Miss 
Dot," with the blood surging to his cheek. 
"Have you also enjoyed yourself.^" 

" Immensely," she replied enthusiasti- 



70 A CKACK COUNTY. 

cally. Tlien, feeling that she could not let 
him go without expressing her gratitude in 
more orthodox form, she added in tones 
full of genuine emotion : 

" I shall look back to to-day all my life, 
and I only wish, Mr. Jarrett, that I could 
thank you properly for your kindness, but 
that is impossible ; nevertheless, believe 
me, I appreciate it none the less." 

" Tut ! Don't make me feel uncomfort- 
able by exalting an ordinary act of 
friendship into one of generosity. And 
look here. Miss Dot, now that you have 
made Kingfisher's acquaintance, and he has 
proved himself worthy of the honour of 
carrying you to hounds, I want you to 
take him whenever you like. From this 
moment consider him yours, to do exactly 
what you please with ; I shan't ride him 
this winter." 

" Oh ! but, Mr. Jarrett, indeed vou must. 
Why ! he is your best horse." 



BOB AND HIS KINDEED SPIRIT FALL OUT. 71 

" All tlie more reason for you to have 
him. He will stand in my stables, because 
he is used to them, and I have promised 
old Matthews never to part with him 
actually; but whenever you want to go 
hunting, even if your father cannot come, 
just send me word, and Kingfisher shall be 
ready." 

As she looked at Bob's honest face, and 
with a pang of pain noted the admiration 
shining from his eyes, the tears insensibly 
welled up into her own. She was deeply 
touched — more even than she liked to let 
him see. 

" Mr. Jarrett," she said, in an undertone 
not meant even for her father's ears, " you 
are too good. Don't think me ungrateful, 
but, indeed — indeed — I cannot ride King- 
fisher any more." 

" Why not ? " he asked in surprise. 
" Don't you like him ? " 

"Oh! yes. It's not that. He's simply 



72 A CRACK COUNTY. 

perfection. But — but " growing more 

and more confused. 

" What is it, then ? You need not be 
afraid to tell me, surely." 

" There — there is a reason," she said, 
turning as red as a rose, " but I can't men- 
tion it just now. Some day perhaps you 
shall know." And with this she was 
gone. 

He smiled. A feeling of exultation took 
possession of him. He thought he under- 
stood the workin<]^s of her mind. She was 
proud, and did not like placing herself 
under an obligation. He approved of her 
independent spirit. In her place, he told 
himself, he should have acted the same. 
After Lady De Fochsey's insinuations, had 
she appeared the least eager to attract, or 
anxious to get what she could out of him, 
then his respect and his admiration would 
have received a blow. As it was, he 
believed in her thorouofhlv. With that 



BOB AND HIS EIJsDEED SPIEIT FALL OUT. 73 

face, and those eyes, she could not be any- 
thing but pure and innocent. Evidently, 
she did not realize as yet how much in 
earnest he was. That was quite clear. 

But it would be very, very pleasant to 
his feelings, teaching her gradually, and 
from day to day, to rely upon him, to look 
up to him as her natural stay and support, 
until at last she fully understood that all 
he had in the world, himself, his house, his 
horses, his fortune, were hers, to do exactly 
what she liked with. 

Since Mrs. Lankester had as good as told 
him there were no other candidates in the 
field, he had begun to think that in time 
he could persuade Dot, dear, darling, 
plucky little Dot, to care for him as he 
cared for her. Only he must not attempt 
to hurry her. He had seen the mistake of 
being too precipitate. And so he went 
home, and sat thinking of his love all the 
evening, recalling her looks and words, and 



74 A CRACK COUNTY. 

counting the days till the Morbey-Anstead 
steeplechases. 

That had been a happy thought of his, 
taking the Lankesters ; for even if the 
doctor could not get away from his 
professional duties he felt pretty sure he 
might count on Mrs. Lankester. And for 
Dot's sake he would have put up with half- 
a-dozen stout, elderly mothers, and paid 
them assiduous attention, however much 
they repelled him secretly. 

By which it will be seen how hopelessly 
in love he was, and how far this earthly 
passion had separated him from his 
spiritual affinity in the shape of Lady de 
Fochsey. 

The fair widow revenged herself by 
riding home with Lord Littelbrane, and 
gauging that nobleman's psychological 
aptitudes, as a consolation for previous 
disappointments. 

But though she applied various test 



BOB AND HIS KINDEED SPIRIT FALL OUT. 75 

conditions, she failed to discover that he 
possessed any mediumistic qualities. Not 
only was his lordship not magnetic, but 
worse still, during a seven mile ride, which 
presented numberless openings, he proved 
himself to be slow, wanting in dash, and 
insufferably commonplace. 

As for his theories and prosy platitudes, 
she was sick to death of them already. 

But for all that, she thought it would 
prove a splendid punishment for Mr. Jarrett 
if she became Lady Littelbrane, and 
iofnored his existence ever after. 
" Her ideas were not exactly high in spite 
of dear Monsieur Adolphe's tuition. 



CHAPTEE Y. 

A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETING. 

The Morbe3^-Ansteacl steeplecliases had for 
many years past been held on a level piece 
of ground, the property of Lord Littelbrane, 
situated only about three miles distant from 
the town of Stiffton, and known by the 
name of Stiffton Flats. It was intersected 
by a running stream which meandered 
through rich, grassy meadows, and which, 
during wet w^eather frequently overflowed 
its banks. This brook, slightly widened, 
and the take-off side guarded by an artificial 
fence, had to be jumped twice by those 
horses that took part in the races. 

Looked at from the point of view of a 
pedestrian, the course was a very fair one. 
From first to last it did not present a single 



A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETING. 77 

obstacle such as might not be jumped with 
hounds every time they ran hard. It was 
nearly all grass, and beautifully level, save 
for a slight ascent at the finish. Yet those 
who knew Stiffton Flats well, and were in 
the habit of riding over them year after 
year, were unaoimous in the opinion that 
more horses came to grief there, or else 
failed to get round the course, than at 
almost anv other hunt meetinoj in the 
kingdom. 

Neither was the reason far to find. 

Had the Morbey Anstead steeplechases 
come ofi* in the spring, or during a period 
of drought, no country could possibly have 
been more delightful. But who can count 
on a cessation of rain during the months of 
November and December? It required 
only a comparatively small amount of 
moisture to render those flat, low-lying 
pastures extending on either side of 
Skelton brook sticky and holding beyond 



78 A CEACK COU^'TY. 

conception. After a few sharp showers the 
water was wont to lie about in pools in the 
furrows, where it was no uncommon thing 
for it to remain the greater part of the 
winter. 

Horses and riders knew from bitter 
experience the detaining properties of that 
stifl clay soil ; but to the uninitiated all 
seemed fair, flat and green. Sportsmen 
from afar laughed at the fences, and 
declared emphatically that they would not 
mind a bit riding over them themselves ; 
but they generally ahered their tone before 
the day was over, and the}^ saw how much 
" grief " was caused by these same innocent- 
looking jumps, more especially after the 
first two miles were left behind. 

Amateur jockeys, busy galloping and 
preparing their horses, had prayed for fine 
weather for days past ; but as usual it had 
been a week of " depressions." Driving rain 
and boisterous winds came sweeping across 



A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETING. 79 

the Atlantic, until at last the heavy weights, 
looking in despair at the sodden state of 
the ground, prophesied with melancholy 
prescience that they might just as well keep 
their horses in their stables, instead of 
exposing them to ignominious defeat. 

But however bad the weather, not to be 
present at the county steeplechases was a 
departure from Morbey Anstead manners 
and customs, of which no one dreamt 
seriously for a second. 

In truth, this lono^ established meetinof 
was a most popular one with all classes of 
society. Invariably fixed to take place on 
a non-hunting da}^, it was patronized not 
only by the Mutual Adorationites, but also 
by the Quornites, men from the Cottesmore 
and the Bel voir, and even by followers of 
the more distant Pytchle}^ Atherstone, and 
North Warwickshire liunts. 

It was in short, a social gathering of 
hunting people, who assembled from all 



80 A CRACK COUNTY. 

parts of the midland counties. Fashionable 

Melton was well represented, and sent forth 

numerous well-known members of the 

aristocracy, including a foreign prince, 

an English duke and a whole host of 

minor celebrities. From every country 

house within a radius of many miles there 

issued beautiful women, big of bust and 

small of waist (by the way, how is the 

combination produced so frequently on 

horseback ?), clad in the tightest of 

Hohne and Busvine habits, the smartest 

and most fanciful of vests, and the most 

diversified and eccentric of hats. Some 

went in for low crowns, some high — very 

high, and with a perfectly marvellous 

nap. Some wore wide brims, some narrow, 

but wlien stylish, they were nearly always 

a few sizes too small for the owner's head, 

and were jauntily perched a top of a lovely 

blonde or dark frinc^e, as the case miolit 

be, and then kept on by a cleverly pinned 



A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETING. 81 

veil whose black spots lent lustre to the 
complexion, making soft cheeks softer and 
large eyes larger. 

Amongst these fair equestriennes, how- 
ever, could be seen specimens of a totally 
different type of sportswoman, though it 
must be owned that they were in the 
minority. The strong-minded ladies, who 
hunted their five or six days a week as 
regularly as men, were evidently indif- 
ferent to appearances. They could be dis- 
tinguished by rusty skirts that had already 
done much service, by loosely-flapping 
covert coats, opening in front over a horse- 
cloth or bird's-eye waistcoat, by worsted 
gloves, old roomy boots, tightly-plaited hair 
(no fringes) and pot hats. 

They went in exclusivel}^ for comfort, 
not fashion or show ; and if the day turned 
out wet, proved their sense ; but on the 
other hand, if Phoebus shone brightly 
and condescended to liizht up the scene 
VOL. III. 39 



82 A CRACK COU>'TY. 

with his golden rays, then it must be con- 
fessed that they did not appear to advan- 
tage beside their smarter and nattier sisters. 
As for the lords of creation they displayed 
so many marvellous checks that one won- 
dered at the ingenuity of the human brain 
to produce such astonishing combinations. 
Tall men wore little checks, and small men 
wore big ones — the biggest they could find 
— and strutted about like bantam cocks, 
trying, since nature had been unkind, to 
make themselves remarkable by the clothes 
on their back. And they certainly suc- 
ceeded, looking like miniature chess-boards, 
in their Scotch tweeds and heather 
mixtures. But as long as the genus homo 
was pleased wdtli number one, it did not 
much signify, and certainly could not 
affect the cynical critic. 

Now amongst other institutions, fashion 
— that powerful yet insipid goddess — had 
elected that at the Morbey Anstead steeple- 



A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETING. 83 

chases it was " the thini^ " to ride, not 



drive. Consequently very few vehicles 
were to be seen in comparison with other 
race-meetings. 

JSTot more than a dozen filled the stewards* 
inclosure as a rule, and the majority of 
these were occupied by elderly ladies, 
whose riding days and figures were both 
gone, and who amused themselves by 
watching through their field-glasses, who 
was the strange young man riding with 
dear Anna Maria or sweet Susan Jane. 

By the younger members of the com- 
munity, both male and female, it was 
considered " chalk " to drive, though if 
questioned as to the reason, it is open to 
doubt if anybody could have given one. 
As far as seeing the races themselves went, 
those occupying elevated box-seats pos- 
sessed a decided advantage over their 
equestrian brethren. 

In the one case, you could sit comfort- 

39* 



84 A CEACK COUNTY. 

ably with a rug rouncl your legs, your 
card in your left hand, and your field-glass 
in your right, and take uninterrupted 
stock of the company and the proceedings 
in general. But in the other, you first had 
to contend with a fidgett}' horse — why is 
even the quietest animal ever foaled frac- 
tious on such occasions ? — then gallop 
madly down to the water-jump, by which 
you lost the start, then as madly back to 
the winning-post, where you arrived just 
too late to see the finish, and had not an 
idea how the race had been run, or what 
had won, until you asked your neighbour, 
and he asked somebody else, who in turn 
appealed to a third part}^, when eventually 
the desired information mifrht or miizht not 
be obtained. 

Then you clapped each other on the back 
— figuratively speaking, of course ; it would 
have been vulvar to do so in realitv — and 
exclaimed, ** Ha, ha, capital race, capital 



A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETING. 85 

finish. There's no doubt that riding is the 
only way to enjoy a steeplechase. That's 
the beauty of this meeting. You see such a 
lot." 

As a matter of fact, whether you did, or 
whether you didn't, signified very little, 
when once fashion had dictated that you 
were to prance about the course on high- 
mettled hacks and display your figure and 
your equitation to the public at large. It 
was " the thing." What need to analyze 
whether you were comfortable or uncom- 
fortable, at your ease or the reverse ? 
There are no such willing slaves as English 
people, nor any other race with such 
sheep like propensities. If one bondsman 
bends his neck to the yoke, then all must 
needs do the same. 

It is possible that had Bob been 
thoroughly acquainted with StifFton Flat 
habits, he too would have yielded his in- 
dependence and ridden instead of driven to 



8G A CEACK COUNTY. 

the races. But being new to tlie mother 
country's ways he ordered out his deceased 
uncle's big, roomy omnibus, piled the roof 
up with brown, straw - lined hampers 
containinf^f c^ood thinf:^s to eat and to 

DO O 

drink, seated himself inside and drove off 
to fetch the Lankesters, without having 
the least suspicion how greatly he was 
violating Morbey Anstead manners and 
customs. 

It had several times occurred to our hero 
that if only Doctor Lankester would walk 
about the course when thev arrived, which 
with his sporting tastes he was sure to do, 
and if only the old lady would elect to 
remain within the four sheltering- walls of 
the omnibus, he and Dot might occupy the 
box-seat and have an uncommonly good 
time of it. This was how the artful fellow 
reasoned. 

Just as he started the sun shone out, and 
caused patches of clear bhie sky to break 



A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETING. 87 

up the heavy masses of dark grey cloud 
that ahiiost filled the heavens ; but in spite 
of its cheering influence, he did not feel 
thoroughly happy until he had made quite 
sure of his guests, and Dot, looking very 
pretty and pleasant, was seated by his side, 
whilst Doctor and Mrs. Lankester occupied 
the seat opposite. 

The latter lady was magnificently and 
carefully attired for the occasion. She 
wore a purple silk dress, a Paisley shawl, 
and a bonnet which would have put many 
a garden to shame, so crowded was it with 
gay and many-coloured flowers, mounted 
on green india-rubber stalks, which kept 
bobbing about with each movement of the 
wearer's head. Every time she looked at 
Bob and Dot she smiled encouragingly at 
them, and in a way which, to the girl at 
least, was peculiarly irritating. 

She was terrified lest Mr. Jarrett should 
discover the meanino^ of those bland nods 



88 A CEACK COUNTY. 

and maternal grimaces, wliicli seemed to 
her quite shamefully apparent. 

So they drove on, along the country 
roads, past villages and homesteads, and 
throuo-h the flourishinfr little town of 
Stiffton, with its tortuous, old-fashioned 
streets, well-to-do inns, prospering shops, 
and venerable church, up whose grey walls 
the ivy clung, and whose square tower 
formed a landmark for m.iles around. A 
clean, bustling little town, full of life and 
animation on this particular morning, as 
flies rattled past from the railway station, 
and huge open conveyances offered to 
deposit pedestrians on the course for the 
modest sum of fourpence a-head. Before 
the hotels paced ready-saddled horses, 
waiting for their riders to appear, and 
behind each curtained window peeped out 
the innocent faces of little children, and 
the more curious ones of their mothers or 
nurses. 



A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETING. 89 

Such was Stiffton. As good a specimen 
as you could meet with of a thriving 
hunting town. Such sleek, fat tradesmen, 
and such innumerable villas nestling on 
every height, told a tale of prosperity, rare 
in this our nineteenth century. 

When Bob's omnibus neared the entry 
to the race-course, a little delay occurred, 
owing to his not being possessed of an 
inclosure ticket. To tell the truth, he had 
never given the matter a thought. 

But Mrs. Lankester was quite put out 
at the discovery. She had set her heart on 
being among what she styled •' the nobs." 

" Do you mean to say, Mr. Jarrett, that 
you actually have not got a ticket ? " she 
asked with considerable asperity, too bad 
an actress to conceal her displeasure. 

" No," he replied, " I am sorry to say I 
have not." 

" Why on earth did you not ask for 
one r 



90 A CRACK COUNTY. 

*' For the very simple reason, Mrs. 
Lankester, that I did not know who to 
ask. Besides," throwin<]^ back his head 
with an independent gesture, " I hate 
bec^G^in^ for favours." 

" Quite right," murmured Dot sympa- 
thetically. 

" Pooh ! Where's the favour ? " res- 
ponded Mrs. Lankester in a louder key. 
" In your position you have a right to a 
steward's ticket. Captain Straightem always 
had one, that I know for a fact." 

" Very probably, but then he was a 
resident in the county, whereas I am a new 
comer, and moreover have had nothing to 
do with the races." 

" You'd better let us in," said Mrs. 
Lankester persuasively, trying the eflect of 
an appeal to the man at the gate. " This is 
Mr. Jarrett — Captain Straight em's nephew. 
Nobody will say anything, I'm sure." 

Anxious to conciliate as far as lav in his 



A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETING. 91 

power, the man turned to Lord Littelbrane, 
who at this juncture appeared on the 
scene, accompanied by General Prosieboy 
and another Mutual Adorationite, one 
Captain Greenby by name. 

Before Bob could prevent him, he went 
up to the noble proprietor of the course, 
doubtless thinking to curry favour with 
both parties. 

" Beg pardon, my lord," he said, touch- 
ing his hat respectfully, " but will you 
kindlv furnish me with instructions ? I am 
at a loss how to act." 

" Why, what's wrong. Parkins ? " re- 
turned his lordship in surprise. " You have 
your orders." 

" Yes, my lord, but I fear there has been 
some mistake. It appears that Mr. Jarrett, 
of Straightem Court, has not been provided 
with an inclosure ticket." 

" Well, what of that ? Why the dickens 
should he be? " 



92 A CKACK COU>'TY. 

" Am I to let him in, or not ? " 

" No, certainly not," thundered his lord- 
ship in reply. " I'm surprised at you, 
Parkins. I should have thought after all 
these years you ^YOuld have known your 
business better than to come to me with 
such a demand. The Kin^:^ of Enij^land 
himself should not go inside our county 
inclosure without a ticket." 

Whereupon he gave his horse an angry 
touch of the heel, and moved on. 

*'The idea!" he exclaimed, turning in- 
dignantly to his companions, " of having 
that low fellow in among us. Why it's 
enough to put one off one's day's amuse- 
ment altogether." 

General Prosieboy and Captain Greenby 
both assented, though the former mumbled 
vaguely that lie wondered where the deuce 
they were going to get luncheon, and wished 
inwardly that Lord Littelbrane had had 
the sense to follow Mr. Jarrett's example, 



A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETING. 93 

and bring plenty of food, in a comfortable 
sliut-up trap, rather than depend upon the 
hospitality of his neighbours, which might 
or might not be forthcoming at the requisite 
moment. Meals oucrht not to be trifled 
with, in General Prosieboy's estimation. 
They were important things, and if you 
were docked of one, it was a serious loss. 
Had he been quite sure where and witli 
whom he was going to lunch, he should have 
felt easier decidedly in his mind. But he had 
a distinct recollection of beim^' invited to 
refresh his inner-man on a former occasion 
bv a noble earl, who offered him nothinof 
more substantial than a packet of dry 
sandwiches, and who folded up the paper 
and string when he had finished this light 
repast, and then, in order to assuage his 
thirs*-, politely tendered him half a glass of 
sherry, doled out from a pocket flask. 
That luncheon was still green in the 
general's memory, and even now gave him 



94 A CEACK COUNTY. 

the shudders when he recalled it. The mere 
sight of Bob's well-filled liamDer inflamed 
him with (^astronomic lonoin^s. 

But he was far too much of a sycophant 
to express his real sentiments, especially 
when he felt pretty certain that they would 
not meet with a favourable reception, so 
resolutely averting his eyes from that highly- 
laden omnibus roof, he burst into a forced 
laugh and said : 

"I wonder what the devil that fellow 
Jarrett means by coming to our Morbey 
Anstead races in this tinkering style. Surely 
he has horses enoui^h in his stable to be 
able to pull one out on an occasion like the 
present." 

" Perhaps he thinks a four-wheeled con- 
veyance safer than pony-back," suggested 
Captain Greenby, who with stiflly waxed 
moustache and squared elbows was riding 
a sprightly little hog-maned animal, only a 
few sizes L^rirer than a fuU-arown donkev. 



A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETING. 95 

" No, I'll give the man liis due. He 
ain't afraid," chimed in Lord Littelbrane, 
whose sense of justice, though extremely 
limited, was strongf. " He can't ride one 
little bit — rolls about all over the place, and 
is nearly off at every fence, but he has got 
the pluck of the old gentleman himself." 

" Pshaw ! He'll soon come back, he'll 
soon come back to the level of the rest 
of 'em," murmured General Prosieboy dis- 
paragingly. " Nobody ever keeps the ball 
a-rollino' for more than a season or two in 
this country, and the harder they go at 
first, the sooner they collapse as a rule. 
Look at ' Crashing Jimmy,' " naming a 
well-known member of the hunt ; " the 
very sight of a fence settles him nowadaj^s, 
and yet what a bruiser he was at one time." 

Meantime Bob had succeeded in findini2f 
a place for his carriage just outside, 
though not within, the magic ropes which 
separated the elite of half-a-dozen hunts 



96 A CEACK COUNTY. 

from the so-called " outsiders." The 
winning-post was not twenty yards off. 
The omnibus faced the rails, and as he and 
Dot did not trouble themselves much about 
social distinctions, and certainly did not 
allow them to interfere with their pleasure, 
they were perfectly satisfied. Not so Mrs. 
Lankester. 

As already seen, in coming to the races 
under Mr. Jarrett's shelterim^ wincf she had 
imagined she should have a place amongst 
the regular county people. She had 
pictured to herself the delight of being 
able to nod triumphantly to her friends 
and acquaintances from the superior alti- 
tude of the stewards' inclosure. The 
reality was a bitter disappointment, and 
she could not refrain from venting her 
displeasure upon Bob. 

*'Eeally,Mr. Jarrett," she said, speaking in 
acrid tones, " I must say that I don't think 
you have managed matters at all well." 



A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETINa. 97 

Bob winced. His mamma-in-law was 
be^innincf to assert her rij2fhts a little soon. 

" Indeed, Mrs. Lankester. I am sorry 
you should be of such an opinion." 

" No, not at all well," she continued. 
" For what's the use of living in a great 
big house, and having ever so much money, 
if you go and stick yourself down among a 
parcel of nobodies, instead of being with 
the swells, as you ought to be. 1 call it 
downright foolish." 

" Oh, mamma, don't — please don't," 
gasped Dot piteously, her face suddenly 
turning the colour of a peony. " Mr. 
Jarrett has been so kind, and surely, surely 
it is not for us to find fault. Why, we should 
not be here at all were it not for him." 

His heart went out towards her. He 
would have given anything to kiss her 
sweet, eloquent lips. 

" Never mind, Miss Dot," he said, 
looking? at her with a reassuring^ smile. 

VOL. JII. 40 



'.■8 A CRACK COUNTY. 

" Xo doubt Mrs. Lankester is quite right in 
what she says. She must forgive my 
blundering for once, and next year, if we 
are all alive and well, I hope she may have 
the satisfaction of seeing us in the inclo- 
sure, where, according to her opinion, we 
()U£(ht to be now." 

That one little word " us " restored Airs. 
Lankester"s good humour as by a miracle. 
For, she argued, Mr. Jarrett might so very 
easilv have said " meT But " us " was com- 
prehensive and significant in the extreme ; 
it meant your daughter and I and a happy 
family party. At all events, she would do 
all she could to promote the match. So the 
cross, dissatisfied expression vanished from 
her face, and she said very winningly : 

" I hope so also. And now, Mr. Jarrett, 
don't you think that you and Dot had 
better go and have a look at the fences 
before the races benin? Doctor Lankester 
has been gone some time." 



A FASHIONABLE STEEPLECHASE MEETING. 99 

" Won't you come, too, mother ? " said 
lier daughter, detecting a maternal artifice, 
and resenting it accordingly, for had she 
not received a long lecture on the advan- 
tages of matrimony previous to starting ? 

The green stalks, with their burden of 
artificial flowers, waved backwards and 
forwards dissentingly. 

"No, dearest, I am far too afraid of 
getting my feet wet." 

"Then I'll stop with you, mother." 

" Oh, dear no ! Never mind me, child. 
I'm accustomed to beinof left alone. Mr. 
Jarrett, carry her off; but oh. Dot, before 
you go, just take one look at old Lady 
Fraserburgh's bonnet. Did you ever see 
such a thing ? It's not fit for a housemaid. 
There is not a single flower or feather upon 
it, and they tell me that flowers, especially, 
are all the rage nowadays." 

Dot and Bob walked off together. The 
girl went reluctantly, but she dared not 

40* 



100 A CRACK COUNTY. 

offer any opposition for fear of rendering 
her mother's scheming too apparent. 
Nevertlieless, in her heart of hearts she 
fek bitterly ashamed. It was such a 
horrible, humiliating thing for any modest- 
minded young woman to be thrown at a 
man's head in this barefaced fashion ; and 
the more you liked the man, the more you 
respected and esteemed him, the worse it 
was. 

What, too, could be more awful than 
having to blush for your own mother ? All 
Dot's sense of ladyhood had been already 
shocked repeatedly. But to show her dis- 
tress in any way was only to make matters 
worse. So, with a sobered manner, and 
most of her pleasure gone for the day, she 
walked b}^ her companion's side, striving 
hard to conceal how greatly she was 
vexed and annoj'ed by Mrs. Lankester's 
remarks. 



CHAPTER YL 



AN AMATEUR FINISH. 



A FINE, sympathetic insight seemed to have 
revealed to Bob that Mrs. Lankester had 
contrived to put Dot out, therefore he 
sedulously avoided the subject of the 
inclosure ticket, and did all he could to 
restore her 'serenity. He behaved very 
well indeed, more like an elder brother 
than an admirer, and did not attempt to 
pay her a single compliment, or to make 
one flowery speech. 

The girl was grateful, and appreciated 
the delicacy of his conduct. As a proof, 
she exerted herself to amuse, and, as they 
walked down the course, pointed him out 
a few of the celebrities she knew by sight, 
who, of course, were unknown to Bob. 



102 A CEACK COU>'TY. 

" Do yon see that handsome middle-aged 
woman on the black horse ? " she exclaimed, 
as a buxom lady of some eight and thirty 
summers passed by, laughing and chatting 
to her male attendant, 

"Yes, who is sheP " 

" She is Mrs. Lono'-Lamrley, a siren who 
is said to have broken more hearts than 
any woman in England, and who even now, 
though no lom?er as voun<]f as she was, 
contrives to captivate every man she comes 



across." 



" Either the men must be very weak, or 
their hearts remarkably brittle," answered 
Bob, for, in his present love-lorn condition, 
he had eyes but for one. " I don't see any- 
thini]^ in her at all." 

" Don't 3^ou ? Then you are an exception 
to the rule, since her admirers are leiilon. 
The cfentleman ridincf bv her side — the 
stout one, I mean, in the frock coat — is the 
Duke of Breezvcourt. It is said that he 



AN AMATEUR FINISH. 103 

would marry Mrs. Long-Langley to-morrow, 
if Mr. Long-Langley were out of the 
way." 

" Why, she looks old enough to be his 
mother," exclaimed Bob, taking another 
look at the captivating equestrienne. " I 
would as soon fall in lo^-e with my grand- 
mother. What can constitute the attrac- 
tion?" 

Dot laughed. Even the nicest of women 
is not displeased at hearing one of her own 
sex disparaged, at least where appearances 
are concerned. There is a natural rivalry 
amonofst them. 

" You are evidently less susceptible than 
the StifFtonians, Mr. Jarrett. But people 
wlio know Mrs. Long-Langley intimately, 
declare that she possesses a most wonder- 
fully fascinating manner. And now I want 
you to look at somebody else — somebody 
who, personally, I admire inhnitely more." 

" And who might that be ? " inquired 



104 A CRACK COUKTY. 

Bob. " T am curious to learn your taste at 
any rate." 

^' Turn to tlie left, then, and you will see 
Lady Norman just coming on the course, 
driving a pair of wonderful bay horses. 
Make haste, or she will have pulled up. 
There ! " as Bob's eyes roved in the de- 
sired direction, *' did you ever see such 
steppers .^ It is a pleasure to watch them 
move." 

" They are magnificent, certainly. But 
who is this Lady Norman ? Has she a 
history also ? " 

" Yes, but it is a very sad one. Her 
husband is mad — not mad enouirh to be 
shut up, but he does the most extraordinary 
things, and takes the funniest fancies into 
his head. One is, that he is always falling 
in love with actresses and queer sort of 
people, which, of course," said Dot inno- 
cently, '' must be very distressing to Lady 
Norman. But she behaves like an ani^el. 



AN AMATEUK FINISH. 105 

and forgives all his escapades. People say 
that she loves hira in spite of everything, 
and that her life is miserable in con- 
sequence. Poor thing ! I am sorry for 
her." 

Bob's interest was aroused. He with- 
drew his eyes from the spirited bay horses, 
and looked at their driver. He saw an 
extremelv beautiful, calm, sad face, whose 
look of settled melancholy touched his 
heart. It was easy, even for a stranger 
like himself, to tell that Lady Norman was 
far from being a happy woman. 

Thus time passed away, and both Dot 
and Bob were so interested in all they per- 
ceived going on around them, that they 
were quite astonished when the jockeys, 
wearing silk caps and jackets, began to 
appear in the paddock, and commenced 
making preparations for mounting their 
respective steeds. 

This was a signal that the first race 



ion A CEACK C0L3TY 

would shortly be run, therefore the two 
young people made the best of their way 
back to the omnibus, where they found 
Mrs. Lankester still busily inspecting old 
Lady Fraserburgh's bonnet, through an 
ivory opera-glass grown yellow with age. 

"I never was more disappointed in my 
life. Dot," she murmured in her daughter's 
ear. " I thouL>ht to see such a fine show 
of bonnets, and reallv, there ain't one to 
compare with mine." Then she profited 
by Bob's turning to give a few words of 
direction to his man, and added eagerl}-, 
"Well, how have you been getting on?" 
Dot was thankful to escape the necessity of 
replying, owing to Mr. Jarrett's suddenly 
asking her mother at what time she would 
like luncheon, which, fortunately, diverted 
her attention. 

" Won't you come outside, Mrs. 
Lankester ? " he inquired, when this 
important matter had been settled. 



AN AMATEUK FINISH. 107 

" 'No, thank you, Mr. Jarrett, I'm afraid 
of the cold air. But make Dot go. She 
loves to see the races, and to tell the 
honest truth, I don't much care about 
them one way or the other." 

Dot was rapidly gaining confidence iu 
Bob ; his conduct was so delicate ; besides, 
she began to feel that she would rather be 
alone with him any number of hours than 
sit and listen to her mother's speeches ; 
they were so very, very trying, and irritated 
her so fearfully. 

Both pride and shame were roused by 
turns. Therefore she scrambled up on 
to the box seat, and Bob seated himself 
by her side, but before many minutes 
had passed Dr. Lankester joined them, 
puffing a little, from the pace at which 
he had walked. " They are making 
Albatross favourite," he said, " but the 
course is awfully heavy, and, in my 
opinion, he won't stay home when the 



108 A CRACK COUNTY. 

pincli comes. He's too slack in tlie loins 
for my taste." 

" What do you fancy, papa ? " asked 
Dot. " You generally manage to select 
the winners." 

*' Well, I've ^ot a sneakin<]^ likinj? for 

' O DO 

Dauntless. He may not show quite so 
much quality as Albatross, but for all that 
he's a real good stamp of hunter and the 
public have had the sense to make him 
second favourite." 

*' Have vou backed him, doctor?' 
inquired Bob, who had not cared to leave 
his companion in order to visit the betting 
ring. Moments spent alone with Dot were 
far too precious to be thus wasted. 

" Only for five shillings, just to give me 
a little interest in the race. I never invest 
large sums. Firstly, because I can't afford 
it, and secondly, because one's bound to 
lose in the long run." 

As he finished speaking, the six compe- 



AN AMATEUR FINISH. 100 

titers who were to take part in the race 
came trotting^ down the course and went 
some two or three hundred yards. Then, 
turning sharp round, they cantered back 
again at half speed, the bright jackets of 
the jockeys flashing past like meteors, and 
for a second bewildering the eye. Even to 
the uninitiated, it was clear that Captain 
Greenby's Albatross was the gentleman of 
the party. But he was an aged horse, and 
carried the top weight, having, in years 
past, won over the very same course, in 
consequence of which he had to put up 
with a penalty of seven pounds. A horse 
might be ever so good, and yet fail to 
catch the judge's eye with twelve stone 
thirteen on his back, especially when the 
" going " was as bad as to-day. The 
hypercritical, too, took exception to 
Albatross's feet, which were remarkablv 
small and almost asinine in conformation, 
whereas Dauntless's broad hoofs seemed 



110 A CEACK COUNTY. 

more calculated to cope with the mud and 
the clay. lie was of a bii^ger, stouter make 
altogether, aud, being only five years of 
age, his impost was but eleven stone twelve. 
Thus there was exactly fifteen pounds 
diflference between the two horses ; a 
difTerence which many of the knowing ones 
thought fatal. 

But Captain Greenby, who rode Alba- 
tross himself, was extremely confident of 
winning, and advised all his friends to 
back his mount, in spite of the gallant 
grey having to carry lumps of weight in 
comparison with every other animal in the 
race. Mayfly, Sir Roger, Gamecock and 
Kildare were youngsters, who had yet to 
w^in their laurels between the flags. Kil- 
dare, in particular, came with a high 
reputation from over the water, and was 
a son of Solon on the sire's side, and of 
old Camilla on the dam's. But bevond 
that he had been seen to aive his owner 



AN AMATEUH FINISH. Ill 

a couple of nasty rolls oat liuntirig, when 
first lie appeared at covert side, nothing 
much was known of him. Still, he had 
the makimrs of a f^'ood horse. 

At length the Hag was dropped to an 
excellent start, and the six competitors all 
cleared the first fence in beautiful order, 
skimmino' over it without touchino- a twi^^. 
It was a pretty sight to see one after the 
other take off exactly right, and land as 
lightly as a cat. Neither did the second 
obstacle produce " grief." On streamed 
the noble animals, until they neared the 
water-jump, which, although of no very 
formidable dimensions, caused Mayfly to 
refuse. 

She whipped round so sharply that her 
jockey was within an ace of flying over 
her head, an action which he greatly re- 
sented. Aijfain and ai^'ain he drove her at 
the brook with a vigour and a persistence 
both highly creditable, but nevertheless, 



112 A CRACK COUNTY. 

quite ineffectual. Mayfly laid back her 
ears, and swerved before she came within 
yards of that obnoxious streamlet. 

The spectators, meantime, had been so 
much interested by the contest going on 
between man and horse, that they had 
almost forgotten the race itself, especially 
as the five remaining horses had disap- 
peared into the distant country. 

When they again could be seen the pace 
and the heavy ground were already telling 
their tale. Only Dauntless, Albatross and 
Gamecock remained to the fore. Kildare 
had either fallen, or else been pulled up, 
when his rider perceived that his chance 
was hopeless, and Sir Eoger, though he 
still plodded wearily on in the rear, was 
almost half a field behind the leaders, 
whose girths he stood but little chance of 
reaching, unless all three failed to keep 
upright. 

A hundred yards more and it became 



AN AMATEUK FINISH. 113 

evident that Gamecock's bolt was shot, 
and that the issue lay between the two 
favourites, Albatross and Dauntless. The 
former struggled nobly under his heavy 
impost, but both horses were dead beat, 
and there seemed little, if anything, to 
choose between them. And now a most 
singular scene took place, and one such as 
might not be witnessed in a lifetime ; 
in fact, it required to be see?i to be 
believed. 

On, on they came with heavy labouring 
stride. Dauntless was first on to the race 
course. But he was so done, that after 
brushing throu^^h the last fence, he stood 
stock still for a few seconds on landing. 
This conduct on his part enabled Albatross 
to gain an advantage. 

But he, in his turn, was equally ex- 
hausted, and he could hardly raise a canter. 
Mad with emulation and disappointment, 
the rider of Dauntless, by whip and spur, 

VOL. III. 41 



114 A CRACK COUNTY. 

set him aoing afrain. That brief halt, short 
as it was, had enabled the poor horse to 
get a whiff of fresh air. It served him in 
good stead now, and probably turned the 
balance in his favour. He began to make 
up for lost ground. 

Albatross's jockey made a vigorous call. 
Then he committed that great mistake of 
nine amateur riders out of ten, and 
attempted to use his whip. As he raised 
his hand aloft, the horse stopped to nothing, 
and within half-a-dozen strides of the 
winning post Dauntless overhauled his 
opponent, and by a desperate effort 
manacled to secure the iudire's fiat bv a 
short neck. 

Two seconds afterwards, and both horses 
relapsed voluntarily into a walk, and from 
a walk to a stand. Even when they had 
sufficientlv recovered to move leisurelv 
towards the paddock, a veritable cloud of 
steam enveloped them, which issued from 



AN AMATEUR FINISH. 115 

their nostrils in spasmodic streams, and 
robbed the precious air of half its fresh- 
ness. Great drops of perspiration rolled 
down from their foreheads to the ground, 
and their outstretched necks and heaving 
flanks warned those who were destined to 
follow in their footsteps what they might 
expect. Albatross had run a good game 
horse, and though beaten be was not dis- 
graced ; but wdien his master dismounted, 
he asked himself somewhat ruefully, 
whether the race repaid him for having 
taken so much out of his mount, and 
whether he might not jusi have won it had 
some kind freak of fortune deprived him of 
his whip. 

Meantime, so great had been the excitement 
occasioned by this uncommon finale, that 
nobody paid much attention to the weather. 
But that vast host of smart gentlemen and 
ladies on horseback were all at once dis- 
agreeably forced to take it into their con- 

41* 



116 A CEACK COUNTY 

sideration. The sky became overcast, the 
sun— ^vhich had shone fitfully throughout 
the morning — disappeared sullenly behind 
a spreading mass of leaden cloud, and 
presently a few great drops of rain caused 
the wary to cast an anxious eye around in 
search of shelter. The wind, too, arose, 
and whistled and howled through the 
hedge-rows and the tops of the trees, until it 
sounded like angry waves dashing them- 
selves against the sea-shore, and then re- 
cedini]^ with a baffled roar. 

As previously mentioned, the truly 
fashionable throng had come to the races 
in gala array, determined to spend a long 
and happy day, and had no convenient 
carriages to retire to in case of an emer- 
gency like the present. Darker and darker 
grew the clouds, until at last down came 
the rain with merciless severity. There is 
rain and rain. A mild steady dribble is 
nothing when contrasted with a chilly 



AN AMATEUR FINISH. 117 

torrent, that cuts tlie very skin on your 
cheeks and freezes the marrow in your 
bones. 

The rain which now descended was of 
this latter character — fierce, cold, penetra- 
ting to a degree. Horses refused to face 
it, and turning round with one accord, 
stood with their backs to the bitter wind, 
presenting a row of trembling quarters and 
tucked-in tails. 

In five minutes every one was more or 
less wet through. Even treble Melton 
could not stand it. The ladies conducted 
themselves bravely, as they always do on 
such occasions, but all the same they looked 
thoroughly unhappy in their light and 
saturated habits, which outlined each fair 
form with the clinging austerity of a 
bathing -gown. 

Those people who are in the habit of 
patronizing local meetings, where covered 
stands are all but unknown, and carriages 



118 A CEACK COUNTY. 

or tents offer the only refuge in bad 
weather, will appreciate the diflerence pro- 
duced in a few minutes by sunshine or 
storm. On StilTton Flats, one short quarter 
of an hour ago, all was brisjht and gay. 
The ladies and gentlemen on horseback, in 
their smart clothes and glossy hats, gal- 
loped briskly up and down, and lent ani- 
mation to the scene. Gipsy women prowled 
from carriage to carriage, and made them- 
selves generally objectionable, red-coated 
runners, accustomed to hunt on foot with 
the various packs, strove to gain a few 
honest pence by selling race-cards, negroes 
sang, acrobats tumbled, Aunt Sally and the 
three-card trick drove a livelv trade, 
oranges and cocoanuts were freely disposed 
of, as also were sticks of coloured rock and 
gingerbread nuts. Bookmakers shouted 
out the odds until they were hoarse, 
jockeys enveloped in covert coats, with 
their silk caps looking like bright dots in 



AN AMATEUR FINISH. 119 

the crowd, wound their way through the 
multitude, and in the paddock, dainty, 
sleek-coated horses walked leisurely around, 
or else lashed out impatiently at their too 
ardent admirers, until they forced them to 
keep at a respectable distance from their 
nimble heels. 

All was life, bustle, movement and good- 
humour. 

Now, a ghastly change had come over 
the scene. One could hardly realize it w^as 
the same. The racecourse w^as black with 
dripping umbrellas, that resembled so many 
overgrown mushrooms turned mouldy by 
decay. What carriages there were w^ere 
mostly open, and presented a similar spec- 
tacle, slightly diversified by w^aterproof 
rugs ; whilst as for the aristrocratic throng 
on horseback — the flower of half-a-dozen 
huntino^ fields — the male and female 
" mashers " of StifTton and all the sur- 
rounding country, if ever people looked 



120 A CEACK COUKTY. 

thoroughly wretched, miserable and un- 
comfortable, they did. The rain had taken 
all the pride out of them. Their glory had 
departed, at all events for that day ; and 
they stood revealed as mere ordinary 
human beings, neither better nor worse 
than their neighbours, when shorn of all 
the pomp and majesty of purple and fine 
linen. Even a Stifftonian cannot rise 
superior to crumpled collars and a limp 
shirt front. Our washerwoman has a great 
deal to do with producing the semblance of 
a gentleman. 



^^^-^ cs— s^s— «r"^==^ 



CHAPTER YII. 

" I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE TO SERVE YOU." 

To make matters worse, the rain came on 
exactJy at two o'clock, when an hour had 
been allowed between the first and second 
races for luncheon. Everyone felt more 
or less hungry. But how were folk to eat, 
drink and make merry when it was pouring 
down in buckets, sending horrible, cold 
driblets from the brim of your hat along 
your spine, reducing your linen to a pulp 
and coursing from the tip of your nose like 
a water-spout ? 

A few wise people galloped ofl home 
without more ado, but the majority, having 
arranged for a day's pleasuring, were 
obliged to wait until the bitter end. Trains 



122 A CEACK COUNTY. 

ran inconveniently, and specials were not 
to be obtained until quite late in the 
afternoon, when all the fun was supposed 
to be over. But what fun ? The good- 
natured and cheerful optimist, though ill at 
ease bodily, prognosticated that the weather 
was sure to mend shortly, since it was quite 
too bad to last. The pessimist growled 
back in reply, that he didn't care a hang 
whether it did or whether it didn't, .since 
he was wet through already and could not 
possibly be in a worse plight. 

In short, folk were full of compassion for 
themselves ; so full, that thev had little to 
spare for the poor horses, who cowered and 
winced before the fierce blast in a truly 
pitiable manner, their glossy coats stained 
dark by the wet, which trickled down in 
large drops from every part. 

While all this was i^oincf on without, 
many were the envious glances cast at 
that snug little quartette seated comfortably 



"I WOULD GIVE 3IY LIFE TO SERVE YOU." 123 

inside Mr. Jarrett's capacious omnibus, dis- 
cussing a whole row of good things spread 
out appetizingly on the cushions. Even 
Mrs. Lankester's attention was completely 
diverted for the time bein!:^ from her 
neighbour's bonnet to Bob's champagne, 
which she appeared highly to relish, 
judging from the number of times she 
plied her glass and allowed it to be 
filled without remonstrance. The strings 
of her tono'ue became ^^raduallv un- 
loosened, and her company manners were 
laid aside. 

" Now, I call this jolly ! " she exclaimed, 
smacking her fat lips, and smiling unctu- 
ously at Bob. Eh ? What do you say, Mr. 
Jarrett ? though I needn't ask, for you 
and that girl of mine look as happy as 
sand-boys." 

Dot almost hid her face in her plate. But 
Bob could see her little pink ear grow 
pinker and felt for her distress. He foresaw 



124 A CRACK COUNTY. 

that his mother-in-law was likely to prove a 
thorn in the flesh. 

"Thank you, Mrs. Lankester," he re- 
joined composedly. "I'm pretty comfort- 
able. One always does feel better when 
one has had something to eat and drink." 

"Just so, just so. Your champagne is 
capital for keeping out the cold. That's 
why I'm taking a little extra." 

"Have a drop more, then," and Bob 
poured out another bumper. 

Mrs. Lankester sipped it with relish. 

" Lor ! how miserable the swells look ! " 
she ejaculated triumphantly, giving a 
coarse laucfh of content as the Duke of 
Breezycourt and Mrs. Long-Langley rode 
by, wearing much the same appearance as 
if they had stood under a pump and been 
well soused. 

" I wish I could take them all in," said 
kind-hearted Bob. " I feel so sorry for the 
poor ladies." 



"I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE TO SERVE YOU." 125 

"I'm very glad you can't, Mr. Jarrett. 
They would not let us into their inclosure 
when we wanted, and now we score over 
them. That's as it should be." 

''I should not like to have you for an 
enemy, Mrs. Lankester." 

"Oh! no fear, you never will. On the 
contrary," looking significantly at Dot, '* I 
am in hopes that we may be the best 
friends later on. Bj^-the-way, do yoa 
admire Mrs. Long-Langley ? " 

"No, not particularly. She has the 
remains of a fine woman, but art has been 
too evidently employed to preserve them." 

" That's just what I say. I can't see any 
beauty in her whatever." 

" You forget, my dear," interposed Doc- 
tor Lankester with his genial smile, " that 
good looks are apt to be efiaced when 
exposed to such a downpour. Where is 
the carmine of those lovely cheeks ? Where 
the straight and pencilled brow, the ruddy 



126 A CEACK CO^^"TY. 

lip and golden locks ? Faded and gone, or 
if not quite gone, at all events converted 
into little coloured rivulets tliat scarcely 
heighten the general appearance." 

Bob laughed heartily. 

" Why, doctor ! " he exclaimed in a 
bantering tone, " I had no idea you were 
so cynical." 

" If there is one thincj on the face of the 
earth I detest, it is a painted woman. She 
is such a horrid, vile, false sham." 

" There I am with you," answered Bob. 
" Try a glass of that claret. I can recom- 
mend it as being something extra good ; or 
do you prefer port ? " 

Whilst they were doing full justice to 
the viands spread out before them, and 
waxing merrier and more colloquial as the 
bottles grew empty. Bob suddenly saw a 
sight which roused him to compassion. 

With their backs turned towards the 
quarter from whence the w^ind came, and 



«I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE TO SERVE YOU." 127 

almost facing the omnibus, he spied Lord 
Littelbrane and General Prosieboy standing 
in dismal silence side by side. 

Who can describe the wretched appear- 
ance presented by these two unfortunate 
gentlemen, but more especially by the 
elder one, who, owing to his advanced 
years, was highl}^ susceptible to the cold 
and the wet. With collar turned up, hat 
crammed down, shoulders shrugged, and 
head bent forward on his chest, his vener- 
able beard transformed into a variety of 
little water-spouts which coursed down his 
clothes, and with his red old face positively 
purple from exposure, there sat General 
Prosieboy — a miserable object indeed. Bob's 
kind heart melted on the spot. He was not 
one to harbour malice, and he forirot that 
this man was his enemy, and had insulted 
him in every possible way. He remembered 
only that he was a human being, past the 
prime of life, and at the present moment 



128 A CRACK COUNTY. 

evidently sufTered from keen physical dis- 
comfort. " Do as thou wouldst be done 
by." This was what flashed through his 
mind. 

In an instant he had left the omnibus, 
and was battling his way through the 
driving rain and slipping about on the 
saturated soil as he vainly strove to make 
haste. 

"Get off! get off!" he said hurriedly. 
'* You must be simply perished. Come into 
my 'bus and have a bit of something to eat 
and a glass or two of liquor to warm you 
up. Here, my man," addressing a half- 
starved looking individual, who stood 
prowling about, evidently in search of a 
job, " hold this gentleman's horse." 

Oh, what a heavenly invitation ! 

For an instant the general thought it was 
an angel's voice sounding so sweetly in his 
ears. The next, he looked round and saw 
the man he had called a duffer and an out- 



"I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE TO SERVE YOU.'' 123 

sicler, a rank bounder, and every vitupera- 
tive name in his vocabular}^ standing close 
beside him, gazing up into his face with a 
pair of compassionate brown eyes, so clear 
and honest that they seemed as if they 
knew no guile. 

To do General Prosieboy justice, as their 
glances met he felt thoroughl}^ ashamed of 
himself. Here was an enemy prepared to 
heap coals of fire upon his head. He 
positively yearned to accept Bob's timely 
and hospitable offer, but if he did so the 
sacrifice would be immense, for how could 
he continue to abuse him hereafter ? Even 
he, was not quite mean enough for that. 

But he was scarcely a free agent. If he 
followed his inclinations and profited by 
Mr. Jarrett's invitation, what would Lord 
Littelbrane say ? There lay the difiiculty, 
which was greatly increased by his com- 
panion's presence. Should he be upbraided 
and comdemned as a base seceder from the 
VOL. III. 42 



ir.O A CRACK COUNTY. 

ranks of the Mutual Adorationites ? 
Would he be branded as a traitor to his 
order, a turncoat and a renegade ? 

He glanced uneasily at his lordship, who 
maintained an impenetratable front, and 
whose countenance was as impassive as a 
mask. He could "[lean nothing from its 
stolidly frigid expression. 

Just then a furious gust of wind and rain 
combined, almost carried their horses off 
their legs, and caused them to sidle up 

acfainst the coach of the Lancers, a 

regiment whose existence Lord Littelbrane 
had seen fit to io^nore, and had never called 
on. A regular rivulet ran off the roof, 
and almost swamped the unhappy horse- 
men. 

Abject and pitiful as might be General 
Prosieboy's conduct, the bodily discomfort 
which he was enduring conquered every 
remaining vestige of pride. H the Devil 
himself had made him a similar oiler he 



"I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE TO SERVE YOU." 131 

would have accepted it at that moment, 
when the horrid moisture penetrated to his 
neck, his back, his thighs, and sent icy 
shivers, suggestive of rheumatism, sciatica 
and lumbago, through all his substantial 
frame. 

" Thank you," he said to Bob, dis- 
mounting as speedily as his wet clothes 
would permit of. "It has turned out a 
most miserable day, and I shall be glad to 
avail myself of your hospitality." 

" That's right," exclaimed the younger 
man cordially. Then in a lower tone he 
added, " Won't his lordship come also ? 
It is so verv stormy and disa<?reeable." 

Lord Littelbrane overheard the remark, 
but he, at least, was consistent. In his 
heart of hearts he despised his friend's 
weakness, and felt secretly angered by it 
No amount of wet or cold should succeed 
in making Itim depart from his principles. 
Corporeal misery should not induce Idm to 

42* 



132 A CRACK COUN'IY. 

quit his colours. He would stick to tliem 
through thick and thin, and at all events 
show a good example to this unworthy and 
degenerate M.A. 

" No, thank you," he said in his most 
lordly and stiffest manner ; " I'm not so 
susceptible to a little rain as General 
Prosieboy, and prefer to remain where I 
am." 

Then he looked at the dripping and 
trembling old man with a contempt which 
he did not attempt to conceal, and muttered 
in an ill-pleased undertone, " I'm surprised 
at you, Squasher ! " 

It needed a c^reat many glasses of Bob's 
champagne, supplemented b}^ a tumblt^r of 
stiff brandy and water, to restore that 
distinguished warrior's equanimity. He 
felt depressed and degraded, and if it had 
not been for the drink, which was un- 
commonly c^ooil, and served without any 
stint, he never could have survived so 



"I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE TO SERVE YOU." 133 

crushing a reprimand from tlie head of the 
Mutual Adorationites 

But little by little, as he grew more 
comfortable, his dignity returned. The 
generous wine flowed through his veins, 
and chased away that disagreeable sensation 
of whipped hound. After all, a man might 
take a little luncheon with a fellow on 
emergency without being obliged to have 
much to do with him hereafter. The 
fellow might be dropped directly he was 
no longer useful, and put back into his 
place gently but firmly. It only required 
tact. 

The general was a fine old man. In his 
cups he was apt to grow pompous, and he 
so far conducted himself as a M. A. that in 
spite of the temptations by which he was 
assailed," he never once condescended either 
to slap his host on the back, dig him in the 
ribs, or even to call him Jarrett, much less 
Bob. In fact, he addressed him as seldom 



134 A CRACK COUNTY. 

as possible, and when he did, it was always 
from the heights of his own superiority. 
Ilis manner was both patronizing and 
offensive. The truth was, he was afraid to 
unbend for fear of incurring: Lord Littel- 
brane's displeasure, and so fell between two 
stools, and conciliated neither his enemy 
nor his friend. Both despised him, and 
worse still, he despised himself, and was 
painfully conscious of the fact. 

He sat there, eating away at Bob's 
pigeon pie and pate cle foie gras, and 
swallowing inconceivable quantities of his 
Grand Monopole and Chateau Lafitte, but 
he did not make the least effort to render 
any return in the way of politeness or 
conversation. As for the ladies thev came 
in for little favour. But then, the Mutual 
Adorationites never did say much, even 
amono' themselves. It was not their 
wav. No How of small talk was at their 
command, and they kept the few ideas 



"I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE TO SERVE YOU." 125 

tliey possessed far very rare and special 
occasions, such as when Mr. Tag-rag-and- 
bobtail rode over a hound, or the hunt 
subscriptions failed to realize the accus- 
tomed fio^ure. 

" \¥ell," exclaimed Dot, when at last, 
the rain having almost ceased, General 
Prosieboy rode off to catch his train, after 
having first mumbled some very ungrace- 
ful and incoherent thanks, " it's not for me 
to abuse your guests, Mr. Jarrett, but of all 
the odious, stuck-up, disagreeable old gen- 
tlemen I ever met, I really think General 
Prosieboy is entitled to the prize." 

" I think so too," said Bob soberly ; " I 
can't make him out at all." 

He was more vexed than he chose to 
admit at finding eyery effort of friendship 
on his part so steadily and rudely repulsed. 
Por although the general had accepted his 
hospitality, and broken bread, so to speak, 
at his table, he knew quite well that he had 



136 A CRACK COUNTY. 

only done so under pressure, and remained 
as much his enemy as heretofore. This 
was discourafj^in^ in the extreme. 

'' I'm afraid there must be something 
altof^rether wronor about me," he said almost 
tearfully to Dot, directly they found them- 
selves to^i^ether again- " Something wholly 
unlike other people." 

" Why, Mr. Jarrett ? What on earth do 
you mean ? " 

" I don't fjet on at all. Xot one bit. 
Nobod}^ seems to like me, try what I will," 
he returned despondently. 

"Don't say that. It is not true." 

" I wish it were as you say. But even 
you. Miss Dot, only tolerate me." 

" No such thing, Mr. Jarrett. You are 
quite mistaken there." 

" Ah ! I know better. You don't care 
for me as I care for you." 

She blushed and remained silent. Her 
heart told her the accusation was true. 



" I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE TO SERVE YOU." 137 

"I wish you would tell me where I 
fail," he went on, after a slight pause. 
" Because then " — and his voice trembled 
— "I might try and improve." 

She felt dreadfully sorry for him, and yet 
was afraid to show her sorrow too plainly, 
for fear of setting fire to a volcano. His 
manner, more than his words, revealed how 
deeply he was moved. 

"Nonsense," she said firmly. "It's 
those nasty, narrow-minded, empty-headed 
people who want improving, not you. 
Why," and her soft face kindled into 
sudden enthusiasm, " you are worth the 
whole lot of them put together. I should 
like to know how long it would have been 
before Lord Littelbrane or General Prosie- 
boy asked you to come in out of the 
rain, supposing the conditions of to-day 
reversed. Don't vex yourself about what 
such people say and do, Mr. Jarrett. They 
do not deserve a thought, and are simply 



138 A CRACK COUMY. 

beneath you in every way. You are a king 
in comparison." 

It ^vas not often Dot spoke at such 
length, or with so much earnestness. But 
she Avas indignant at the treatment Bob 
had received. 

And if anything could have comforted 
him, her speech did. He turned two moist 
and grateful eyes full upon her. 

" God bless you. Miss Dot,'' he said 
huskily. " I'm all right again now, for as 
lon^ as vou don't consider me a brute I don't 
care two straws what anybody else thinks." 

" I — I like you awfull}-, and so does 
papa," she cried impulsively, carried out of 
her reserve, and trvinuf onlv to console him 
for the sliirhts he had received. 

His face flamed into colour. His whole 
soul seemed for one second to Ihisli throuizh 
his eyes. 

" And I like you too. You know that 
I do. I would give my life to serve you." 



"I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE TO SEKVE YOU." 139 

They were simple words, but the way in 
which he said them made the blood rush to 
her heart in a guilty wave. How was she 
ever to make him understand the difference 
between lovinsf and likin<?, without wound- 
ing his kindly spirit ? " He ought to know 
— he ouo'ht to know." That was what she 
kept telling herself during the homeward 
drive. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

BOB RECEIVES A SEVERE SHOCK. 

A MONTH passed away, and at the end of it 
Bob was painfully conscious of the fact 
that, in spite of the increased intimacy 
existing between himself and the Lankester 
family, he had made but little real progress 
in his suit. 

He and Dot were very good friends, but 
nothing more. He never could get any 
further. She was always pleasant, and 
when they met, which he contrived should 
be often, appeared pleased to see him ; and 
yet, whenever he made the slightest en- 
deavour to approach the subject lying so 
near his heart, and consuming it with 
anxiety, she invariably managed to evade 



BOB RECEIVES A SEVERE SHOCK. 141 

it, and to turn the conversation into a 
totally different channel. 

It was vexinix in the extreme to find that 
directly he touched upon sentiment she 
drew in her horns at once, like a sensitive 
snail desiring to escape hurt. Hard as he 
had tried, every day rendered it more 
evident that he had completely failed to 
reach Dot's heart. And fully realizing 
this, he grew both depressed and dis- 
couraged, and asked himself a thousand 
times what was the reason of his unsuccess. 
Another thing puzzled him. As the weeks 
passed away he began to notice a difference 
in Dot. Unfortunately it was not one to 
inspire fresh hope, but it kept his mind in 
a state of tension. 

She gradually lost the sweet serenity and 

gentle cheerfulness which had hitherto 

been her chief characteristics. The quiet 

monotony of her life no longer seemed to 

satisfy her. She was often grave and pre- 



142 A CEACK COU^'TY. 

occupied. When in repose, the little, 
sweet, babyish face would assume quite a 
serious expression. Something appeared 
to trouble the girl, and once or twice Bob 
fancied that this trouble originated from 
her not being altogether happy in her 
home. 

Now that he had seen more of Mrs. 
Lankester, and his first impressions instead 
of growing weaker had only become 
confirmed, he did not wonder at such 
being the case. 

Mother and daughter were so unlike. 
The one so coarse and narrow minded, the 
other such a perfect little lady in every 
thought and feeling. 

He made various essays to induce Dot 
to confide in him, but this she steadily 
refused to do. Still, although she never 
made any complaint, or acknowledged she 
had cause for unhappiness, he contrived 
to f]jather that her mother was trvimx to 



BOB RECEIVES A SEVERE SHOCK. 113 

force her into some course of action against 
which her whole nature revolted. As to 
what it might be he could only make 
vague guesses, and torture himself in the 
process. He had a kind of an idea that 
Dot did not like him, and tliat Mrs. 
Lankester wanted to make her marry him 
ao-ainst her will. The mere notion rendered 
him sad, and yet he could not help thinking 
that there was a good deal of truth in it. 
Such a supposition, if correct, would quite 
account for Dot's reserve. The greater 
the pressure put upon her the more 
natural her coldness and gravit}^, and good 
God ! just to think of the girl he cared for, 
the girl he loved to distraction and almost 
idolised, being pestered into giving a luke- 
warm consent to their marriage ! Deeply 
as his affections were involved, he would 
rather bid her good-bye for ever than feel 
that she was being rendered miserable 
through his instrumentality, and being 



i44 A CRACK COUNTY. 

goaded to commit a sin from which her 
pure, innocent soul shrank back in horror. 
Dot's ej^es were clear as mirrors. It was 
a delight to look deep into their trans- 
parent depths. But would it not be a 
pain rather than a pleasure to see them 
cloud over at his approach ; exquisite 
agony to feel his embraces passively 
endured, instead of returned ? Bob's poor 
hungry heart clamoured for reciprocity. 
Toleration alone could not satisfv it. 
Here, alone in a foreign country, far from 
his kith and kin, with expectations disap- 
pointed and illusions crumbling one by one 
to the ground, he yearned for sympath}- and 
companionship with an aching, insatiable 
yearning, which seemed to eat into the 
very vitals of his being. 

No doubt the weather was in great 
measure responsible for the settled gloom 
that was gradually stealing upon him and 
rendering his spirit weary and joyless. 



BOB RECEIVES A SEVERE SHOCK. 145 

Since the end of November, protracted 
frost had interfered sadly with hunting 
arrangements. Frost, accompanied by a 
bright sun overhead, and a clear, if cold 
blue sky, acts as an invigorating tonic 
both to mind and body, but frost ushered 
in with a low grey haze, settling weird-like 
on the ice-bound earth, and occasionally 
diversified by cruel winds and sleeting 
snow, produces an exactly opposite efTect, 
and runs the human barometer down to 
zero. At such seasons all the world is apt 
to look dark and drear. Nature varies 
and man varies with her. He sympathizes 
with her sombre moods, rejoices in her 
bright, sunshiny ones. 

Neither was Bob's health good at this 
time. It, like his spirits, had succumbed 
to climatic influences, though he would 
have scorned to admit the fact, considering 
it, like all strong, young and healthy men, 
a derogatory one. But the cough, con- 
voL. III. 43 



146 A CRACK COUNTY. 

tract.ed when lie had tumbled into the 
brook, had now become chronic, and 
althou'^h he made lii^ht of it, and refused 
to take any precautions against the 
treacherous English climate to which he 
was not accustomed, it nevertheless had a 
debilitating effect upon his general system. 

He lonfT^ed to ^et out huntincf a^fain, if 
only as a means of diverting his thoughts 
from Dot, whose image was continually 
present in his mind, and prevented him 
from sleeping at night. In short, he lived 
in a state of fever; but the self-control 
exercised till the present time was too great 
to be continued. He felt a crisis was at 
hand, and that before long, whether his 
cause were hopeless or tlie reverse, he must 
speak out, and have an answer one way or 
the other. It was better to know one's 
fate than let one's manhood waste awav in 
torturing suspense. Matters stood thus, 
when the hated and detested frost at last 



BOB EECEIVES A SEVERE SHOCK. 147 

began to show symptoms of giving. First 
it rained, and the drops froze as they fell, 
then it snowed, then rained again ; a cold, 
miserable downpour ; but though the thaw 
was a very half-hearted one, it restored to 
the roads their normal amount of mud, and 
roused hope in the breasts of fox-hunters, 
who came scurrying down from town in 
hot haste, or else forsook " rocketers " and 
rabbits with scant ceremony. But dis- 
appointment awaited these eager Nimrods. 
A fiat came forth from the kennels, which, 
although perfectly just in itself, created as 
much grumbling as such fiats always do — 
to the effect that another day must elapse 
before the ground would be in a fit state to 
admit of pursuing the fox. 

When Bob was informed of Lord Littel- 
brane's decision, he resolved to run up to 
London, having certain business matters 
connected with the estate to attend to. On 
reachin^,^ the station, he found that a train 

43* 



148 A CRACK COUNTY. 

leaving the metropolis at an early hour had 
just arrived. Having some little time to 
wait, he began walking up and down the 
platform, when, to his great surprise, he 
suddenly perceived Dot Lankester, clad in 
a neat striped petticoat, a well-fitting black 
jacket, and a small felt hat with a red wing. 

His heart gave a big leap and went 
thump against his side. He was on the 
point of going up to speak to her, when he 
received an unpleasant shock, which seemed 
to bring his whole internal mechanism to a 
stand-still. And yet, the sight that dis- 
turbed him so much was a very simple one, 
and b}" no means calculated to upset his 
equanimity so entirel3\ 

He saw a tall, well-built young man, with 
a fresh complexion and fair hair, jump out 
from a third-class compartment, and he 
heard Dot utter a sudden exclamation of 
delight, which caused the blood to mantle 
in her cheek. 



LOB DECEIVES A SEVERE SHOCK. 149 

That was all ; but then, impelled by an 
overpowering curiosity, he advanced a few 
steps, and saw something more — something 
that he would have given the whole world 
not to have seen. 

That tall young man — impudent, ill- 
mannered fellow — after a slight and em- 
barrassed hesitation, stooped down and 
actually kissed Dot's upturned face with 
an air of horribly familiar proprietorship. 

" You got my letter, I suppose," he said 
interrogatively. " But I need not ask." 

" Oh ! yes. Will," she replied, her eyes 
brii^ht with a liojht that Bob had never 
seen there before, and which did away with 
any doubts he might have entertained as 
to their owner's coldness of disposition. 
" That is whv I am here." 

"I thought you would come to meet me, 
when you knew I was passing through." 

" Naturally ; but oh ! Will, I feel so 
wricked." 



150 A CRACK COUNTY. 

" Wicked ! Pooh ! nonsense ! " he said 
shortly. " What's there to feel wicked 
about ? " 

" Mother does not know Tve gone to see 

you." 

He made a wry face, and Bob, looking 
on, instinctively distrusted this young man, 
whose manner appeared to him to be forced 
and unnatural. 

" No, I suppose not. But, I say. Dot, 
let's come into the waiting-room. It's 
jollier there than here. My train does not 
go on for another quarter of an hour, and," 
with a sudden flush, " I've ever so much to 
tell you ; something that j'ou are bound 
to know sooner or later." 

" What is it, Will? " she asked, alarmed 
by the gravity of his tone. " If it's bad 
news, don't be afraid to tell me. I'll try 
and bear it." 

And with that, she slipped her hand 
through his arm in quite a lover-like 



BOB EECEIVES A SEVEEE SHOCK. 151 

manner, and looked up into liis face, with 
oh ! such a smile, and Bob, watching the 
proceedings with absorbing interest, felt a 
sharp pain shoot through his heart, just as 
if it had been stabbed by a knife. Ah ! 
the agony of that moment, and the revela- 
tion it brought. 

He slunk away with an icy, sick sensa- 
tion stealing all over his frame, and catch- 
ing at the very breath in his lungs, as it 
sought to force an exit. His brow was 
damp, his legs trembled beneath him. 
What did it mean ? Was he mad, or 
dreaming some horrible dream I Will, 
Will — how he hated the name ! who was 
Will ? this man Dot came to meet at a 
public railway station, and wdio greeted 
her wdth such strange familiarity. He had 
known the Lankesters now for some time, 
but he had never once heard his name 
mentioned. Of that he was positive. He 
mif^ht be Dot's brother. For a moment 



152 A CRACK COUNTY. 

Bob breathed again. But no, if this were 
so, surely she would have spoken of him 
just as she spoke of Matilda, and of 
Matilda's children. And if he were not 
her brother ? A mist rose before his eves. 
He clutched at a column to steady himself. 
The world seemed so curiously unreal, so 
hazy and strange. 

Then a sudden thought flashed across his 
mind with the vividness of certain death. 
Mii]fht it not be, that Mrs. Lankester had 
deceived him when talking about her 
daughter, and he had made a cruel mistake 
from the very beginning ? 

Yes, yes, he knew it was so, and yet he 
stru<:^c^led a£,^ainst the belief. He thrust it 
from him fiercely, vehemently, with the 
energy of despair. But in vain. The con- 
viction grew and strengthened, and refused 
to be banished. 

All the time the train in which he was 
seated kept gliding through quiet green 



BOB EECEIVES A SEVERE SHOCK. 153 

fields dotted with resting sheep and 
browsing cattle, whilst it whirled past 
snug homesteads, nestling amongst yellow 
corn-ricks, and swept by picturesque 
villages, with red chimneys clustering 
round some tall grey steeple, the miserable 
young man kept saying to himself : 

" Now everything is explained. This 
was Dot's secret — the cause of her coldness 
and reserve. She was head over ears in 
love with somebody else before ever I 
crossed her path." 

And then, in his anguish and his despair, 
he ground his teeth with impotent passion, 
and the veins on his forehead swelled till 
they stood out like whip-cord, whilst the 
storm within him raged strong. 

Oh ! the misery, the mockery of life ! 
Was it for this that he had come to 
England ? Just to get a brief glimpse of 
happiness, and then to lose it for ever, and 
realize that the highest good vouchsafed to 



]:>l: A CHACK COUNTY. 

man on eartli was denied him ? Oli ! it was 
cruel, cruel. 

Why had they not told him at once, 
before he had grown to love her with such 
power and intensity ? The disappointment 
would have been comparatively slight. 
Why had not those who knew how matters 
stood warned him in time, and so pre- 
vented the mischief.^ This deadly hurt 
might have been spared him. A little 
frankness and foresiorht would have 
averted the evil. But no doubt it was 
nothins^ to them — and he laugrhed a bitter 
laugh — nothing to anybody if he fell des- 
perately in love with a girl who was 
already another man's property. They 
would only sneer, and say he was a fool for 
not fniding out how the land lay sooner. 

He did not blame Dot. No unkind 
thought crossed his mind in connection 
with her. He exonerated her entirely. 
She had done all that modest maiden could 



BOB EECEIVES A SEVERE SHOCK. 155 

do. Looking back, lie saw now quite 
clearly how from their very first meeting 
she had discouraged an}^ symptom of senti- 
ment, and steadily repressed all display of 
tender feelino-. 

o 

But her father ! her mother ! Aye, her 
mother ! 

Mrs. Lankester was the one who had 
thrown dust in his eyes, who had egged 
him on by every means in her power, and 
who, he felt convinced, was bent on 
securim? him as a husband for her 
daughter. She had purposely practised 
concealment. He was as sure of it as he 
was of his own existence. So he raved all 
the way up to town. But after awhile his 
passion spent itself. It left him shaken to 
the innermost depths of his being, but 
calmer, juster. He even tried to argue 
against the evidence of his own senses. 

After all, it was just possible he might 
be mistaken. Perhaps Will was a cousin. 



156 A CRACK COU^'TY. 

Girls were often very fond of their cousins 
in an innocent, confiding v^Sij. But no, 
Dot's look of ineffable content destroyed 
the supposition. No girl could look at a 
man like that unless she were thoroughly 
in love with him. It was useless trying to 
explain away facts just because they had 
dealt a death-blow to his hopes. 

There was not much to be done under 
the circumstances. But one thing he could 
do ; namely — know the worst. He would 
keep silence no longer. The passion that 
consumed his heart should find an outlet 
once, even if it must remain mute ever 
after. Thus he resolved. 

But it would be too late to see Dot that 
evenincf on his return from town. The 
anguish must be endured for yet a few 
hours more. On the next da}^ at the 
earliest possible hour, he would seek an 
interview. 

Then, on a sudden, he remembered with 



BOB RECEIVES A SEVERE, SHOCK. 157 

a species of grim satisfaction, that Mrs. 
Lankester was confined to her room by 
rheumatism. He should see Dot alone, 
thank God ! and he knew her well enough 
to feel convinced that from her lips, if not 
from her mother's, he should hear 
nothing but the truth. Dot's statements 
could be absolutely relied upon. She 
would not deceive him. 

Bob spent a restless, wakeful, and miser- 
able night. Sleep obstinately refused to 
visit his tired eyelids. Coloured lights, 
kaleidoscopic in shape and variety, danced 
beneath them, and still further fatigued his 
tired brain. His cough harassed him, and 
rendered him hot and feverish. Thought, 
that horrible nightmare of active minds, 
effectually prevented any ease. He tossed 
and tumbled between the sheets, and 
counted the slow, interminable hours, until 
at length dawn brought temper ar}^ un- 
consciousness. When he arose next 



158 A CKACK COUNTY. 

morning lie felt ill, both Ijcdily and 
mentally. During the last month or six 
weeks his nerves had been kept in a stale 
of perpetual tension. Xow they were sur- 
excited and utterly unhinged. The unex- 
pected apparition of Will had proved too 
much for them. 

Out of doors everything was in unison 
with his feelino^s. The thaw — such as it 
was — still continued. The sky was grey, 
so also was the earth ; a leaden mist, weird, 
ghostly, phantom-like seemed to descend 
from the one and to exude from the other. 
It wrapped a sodden shroud around the 
landscape ; the trees were black, and 
shinino' with a moisture which trembled 
between ice and water ; patches of dirty 
honeycombed snow lay about in all 
directions. Occasionally, some loosened 
clod would come slipping down from the 
roof with a dull thud, and disintegrated 
particles splashed against the window- 



BOB EECEIVES A SEVERE SHOCK. 159 

panes. Oh ! the misery, and chilliness, and 
dreariness of it all ! The desolation that it 
conveyed ! Bob sighed, as he gazed around 
him, at the big empty house, the wide park, 
the dripping shrubs, and the melancholy 
plantations. These things were very 
beautiful in their way, but they wanted 
sun. He missed the brightness and warmth 
of an Australian winter. 

How strange it seemed, to think that 
Christmas Day was close at hand. He 
wondered what his mother and Belle and 
the little ones were about. What an age 
since he had seen them. How much he 
had lived and suffered in the time. He 
could hardly believe that this Bob Jarrett 
was the Bob Jarrett he had known in 
former days ; such an utter change had 
come over him. Once he had been a high- 
spirited, happy-go-lucky young fellow, and 
now 

Into his aching heart there suddenly 



ICO A CRACK CO UNIT. 

surged a great, wild longing to see his 
mother, to feel her cool lips pressed to his, 
to hear her gentle voice bidding him go 
forth and be of good cheer. 

*' Oh ! mother, mother ! " he cried aloud, 
in the bitterness of an anguish too great 
for many words, " how I wish you were 
with me at this moment." 

Nevertheless he went out to meet his 
fate like a man, and the little maid-servant 
who answered Doctor Lankester's front 
door bell had not the least suspicion how 
every nerve and pulse possessed by Mr. 
Eobert Jarrett, of Straightem Court, were 
quivering like a girl's, when she led him 
into the house and preceded him up the 
narrow staircase, to which by this time 
he was well accustomed. 



CHAPTER IX. 



LOVE BEFORE MONEY. 



Bob was unceremoniously ushered into 

Dot's presence, without the girl being asked 

whether she were at home to visitors or 

not. The maid-servant had, for some time 

past, looked upon him as one of the family, 

and felt flattered by the attentions he was 

paying her young mistress. 

In anticipation of a tete-a-tete. Bob had 

carefully prepared a little set speech, which 

he hoped would not only conceal his 

excessive nervousness, but also pave the 

way to asking that important question, 

"Who is Will, and in what relation 

does h& stand to you ? Is he your brother, 

your cousin, or your lover ? " which he 

was dying to put. 

VOL. III. 44 



162 A CRACK COUNTY. 

But directl}^ he saw Dot, lie forgot all 
about his immediate intentions, and thought 
only of her, and what he could do to serve 
her. Eor she had been crying, there in 
the drawing-room, all alone by herself. 
His heart grew big at the thought of her 
distress. A pair of very red eyes, set in a 
piteous little pale face, unmistakably pro- 
claimed that she was in trouble. 

So suddenly had he come upon her that 
it was impossible to attempt any evasion, 
as she seemed to realize, for with evident 
embarrassment she advanced to meet him. 

"Why, Miss Dot!" he exclaimed in 
agitated tones, her emotion proving com- 
municative, " what on earth is the matter 
with you ? " 

There was something so S3'mpathetic and 
concerned in his way of making the inquiry, 
that for all answer she sat down on the 
nearest seat, and hiding her face in her 
hands, burst into a perfect storm of tears 



LOVE BEFORE MONEY. 163 

Her slight frame was sliaken by sobs, wliicli 
no effort appeared able to suppress. 

The sight of such grief as this, simply 
maddened him, and rendered him oblivious 
of every consideration of prudence or self- 
control. His one instinct, one desire, was 
to comfort her. 

In an instant, he was down on his knees 
by her side, his hat and stick rolling on the 
floor, whilst, unconsciously almost, a 
nervous arm stole round her waist — that 
slender waist which he had >so often 
longed to encircle, and wondered whether 
he ever should. 

" Dotj Dot ! my darling, my own dear 
little woman, don't cry, sweet one. I can't 
bear to see you in this state. What is it 
that vexes you ? " 

" No — no — nothing. P — please — get — ■ 
up, Mr. Jarrett." 

"I can't. I won't. Oh! Dot," and he 
tore her hands from her face and devoured 

44* 



164 A CRACK COUNTY. 

them with passionate kisses. " You must 
know how things are with me — you cannot 
liave been blind all this time. Dearest, 
give me the right to take care of you, and 
love you. I will move heaven and earth 
to make your life happy, and keep all 
trouble from you. Tell me what your 
sorrow is, and let me share it." The 
words were spoken at last. He clenched 
his teeth, and waited to hear what answer 
she would give him. A shudder ran 
through her frame. She tried to push 
away his arm with gentle force. 

" Don't, Mr. Jarrett, please don't. You 
— you mustn't." 

" Mustn't ! " he cried, with bitter pain. 
" Oh ! Dot, I can't help myself, for I do 
love you so dearly." 

" Hush, pray don't speak so." And she 
put out a warning hand. But she might 
just as well have tried to stop a mountain 
torrent m its impetuous course. 



LOVE BEFORE MONEY. 165 

" It's too late to tell me to keep quiet," 
he went on, with growing passion. " I can 
no longer remain silent." 

" Indeed — indeed it would be best," she 
interrupted. 

" Perhaps so, but one cannot always stop 
to choose the wisest course, even if one 
would. Dot, I am desperate, and must have 
an answer. Surely you can say yes or no." 

" Why do you insist on giving yourself 
so much pain ? " she asked sadly. 

" Because, as I have said before, I love 
you, and have loved you ever since the day 
you came trotting down the road, and 
opened that beastly gate for me. Of course 
you have not thought of me. All this 
comes as a surprise, but I will wait. Dot — 
wait years until you get to care for me a 
little bit, if only you will promise some day 
to be my wife. Darling, say that I have 
a chance.'' 

His eloquent words, full of passionate 



lee A CRACK COU^TY. 

sincerity, recalled lier to herself, and to tlie 
gravity of the situation. With an effort 
she recovered her composure. 

" Mr. Jarrett," she said in a voice that 
tried hard to appear steady, looking at him 
with dim, compassionate eyes. " I am so 
dreadfully sorry — I — I hoped you would 
never put this question to me, for alas ! I 
cannot answer it as you wish/' 

There was a moment's silence. Then he 
staggered to his feet, and looked wildly 
round the room. " You cannot," he ejacu- 
lated. " Then there must be a reason, and 
my suspicions are confirmed." 

She hung her head, but made no reply. 

" Dot, for heaven's sake, don't keep me 
any longer in suspense. This is a matter 
of life or death to me." 

" What is it you wish to know ? " she 
asked almost inaudibl3\ 

" I happened to be at the railway station 
yesterday morning, and I saw you. You 



LOVE BEFOEE MONEY. 167- 

met a young man there ; lie kissed you, 
and 3'Ou seemed pleased that he should do 
«o. Is he " — and his utterance grew 
thick — "is he anything to you ? I do 
not seek to pry into your affairs from idle 
curiosity, but I think I have a right to an 
answer." 

The colour flamed up into her face, but 
she answered with quiet dignity : 

" You shall have one, Mr. Jarrett. The 
gentleman you saw is my affianced husband. 
We have been eno-ao-ed to each other for 
very nearly three years." 

" Why did you not tell me this sooner ? '* 
The words burst from him hoarse and 
inarticulate. 

" How could I ? " she replied mournfully, 
" when my own parents refused to sanction 
the engagement." 

" And you care for this man ? Dot, for 
Heaven's sake, tell me the truth." 

'^ Yes, I love him better than my life. I 



168 A CEACK COUNTY. 

would sacrifice everything in the world to 
be his wife." 

At this answer, Bob's senses grew dim. 
The room suddenly swam before his eyes. 
A sound as of mighty waves dashing 
acfainst the shore deafened his ears. For 
several seconds darkness descended upon 
his brain and literally paralyzed it with a 
hideous and oppressive power. He grasped 
at the back of a chair for support. The 
world, life. Dot Lankester, appeared like an 
indistinct dream. It was some time before 
he recovered sufficient consciousness to be 
aware that she was speaking to him and 
looking up into his face with anxious, 
frightened eyes. 

" Oh ! Mr. Jarrel t. Are you ill ? What 
is wroncf ? What — what have I done ? "' 

He took no notice of her interroc^ations. 
His mind could contain but one thouc^ht. 

" Is there no chance, Dot, none wliat- 
ever ? Can nothim;]^ alter vour decision ? " 



LOVE BEFOEE MONEY. 160 

he asked in a subdued, unnatural voice, 
which sounded strange even to himself. 

The tears rushed to her eyes. An over- 
powering pity filled her being. He was so 
honest, so good and unselfish, so worthy of 
love, and yet — she had none to give. 

" No," she said softly but firmly. " I 
cannot raise false hopes. I have tried very 
hard to make 3"0u understand how things 
were. Of course, when we first met, it did 
not matter, and there seemed no special 
reason why you should be told about Will. 
But afterwards, when I began to suspect 
that you liked me, then, although I was 
not sure of the correctness of my suspicion, 
I did my very best to impress upon your 
mind the fact that some barrier existed 
between us. If I had spoken out, as 
perhaps I ought to have done, you might 
have considered me forward, presumptuous 
and conceited. It appeared to me im- 
modest to make sure of a man's love before 



170 A CEACK COUTsTY. 

he had himself declared that his affections 
were engaged. I was placed in a dilemma, 
80 held my peace, though I now feel I have 
been bitterly to blame/' And once more 
the tears threatened to overflow their soft- 
fringed boundaries. 

" No, Dot," he said sorrowfully. " You 
could not have told me the truth more 
surely and impressively than you did. Only, 
you see, I refused to take warning in time. 
I do not wish to accuse anyone, but your 
mother, some weeks ago, certainly led me 
to believe that you were heart-whole ; she 
even regretted the scarcity of eligible young 
men in this part of the country." 

" If YOU knew mamma as well as I do, 
you would not have paid any attention to 

what she " began Dot, but she checked 

herself suddenly, and blushed as red as a 
rose. Her young voice rang with an 
unconscious scorn, which revealed more, 
than any number of condemnatory speeches. 



LOVE BEFORE MONEY. 171 

A long pause ensued, Bob's brows were 
knit. He was evidently recalling his first 
interview with Mrs. Lankester, and no very- 
pleasant memories resulted. 

Dot was the first to speak. 

" Mr. Jarrett," she said at length, " I, 
for one, have never wilfully deceived you, 
but all the same, some little explanation is 
your due. You think you have been badly 
treated in this matter." 

" Not by you," he interposed. " Never 
for one instant by you." 

" If not by me, then by my relatives. 
It comes to the same thing. Have you 
patience to listen to a long story ? if so I 
can render clear some few points that now 
very naturally puzzle you." 

" Patience ! " he retorted with keen 
misery. " When this is the last time I 
may ever be alone with you again. Oh ! 
Dot, I resemble a miser counting his 
money. Every moment spent in your com- 



172 A CRACK COUNTY. 

pany is like precious gold. Would that 
your story would last as long as there is 
life in my wretched body.'* 

She put her finger to her lips, gently 
rebuking the desolate and rebellious spirit 
he displayed, yet the heart within her was 
very sore, and swollen with compassion. 

He had been such a true, staunch friend 
to her, and she liked him so much ; she so 
thoroughly appreciated his many sterling 
qualities, and the kindliness and simplicity 
of his nature. Fate, and fate alone, had 
brought into her horoscope somebody else 
before she had ever had the chance of meet- 
in£j him. Otherwise the issue mii][ht have 
been very different. Mr. Jarrett was rich, 
a splendid match in every way for the 
daufrhter of a humble village doctor. And 
Will was poor ; so poor that he could not 
afford to keep a wife, and might not be 
able to indulge in such a luxury for many 
years. Without being worldly, she knew 



LOVE BEFORE MONEY. 173 

enoucrli of the world to realize all the 
advantages offered by an alliance with Mr. 
Jarrett, of Straightem Court. Yet no 
thought of disloyalty to Will found even a 
temporary dwelling place in her mind, 
alt-hough since their last meetino^ a horrible 
suspicion embittered her very existence. 
She wished she had a twin sister exactly 
like herself in outward appearance, but in- 
finitely more deserving in every other way, 
so that Bob could marry her and be com- 
forted. " The pity of it, the pity of it." 
That was her predominating feeling. Such 
a waste of valuable affection — an affection 
calculated to make any girl supremely 
happy — thrown away in a wrong direction. 
Love, so precious and so holy, when genuine 
a-s in the present case, showered upon one 
who had not the power to return it. Every- 
tliing at cross purposes, everything wrong. 
Tliis was how Dot felt. Bob had paid her 
the greatest compliment a man can pay a 



174 A CRACK COUNTY. 

woman. Instead of fillinc( her soul with 
joy, it had steeped it in sadness. All she 
could do to alleviate his sufferings was to 
give him her fullest confidence, and hold 
nothinof back. Absolute frankness on her 
part might perhaps render things a little 
less hard to bear on his. It might console 
liim somewhat, to learn that he had never 
had a chance of gaining her love, since her 
troth was plighted long before he had ever 
set foot in Enij^land, or dreamt of inheritinc^ 
his uncle's property. If she had been 
brave and done violence to her feelimis 
sooner, then he might liave been spared 
much pain. She made a sign to Bob to be 
seated, then drawing her chair close beside 
him, began in a low but clear voice : 

" Did you happen to notice a grey stoue 
house, just outside Smallborough, standing 
some little way back from the road, the 
day you were good enough to mount me 
on Kin u fisher ? " 



LOVE BEFORE MONEY. 175 

" You mean that quaint, old-fashioned 
house with an apple orchard ? Yes, I 
remember it well." 

" It was inhabited some few years ago by 
one Mr. Barrington, and his wife and chil- 
dren. In those days they were comfortably 
off, and Mr. Barrington lived the life of a 
country squire. The eldest boy, Will, 
when quite a child, displayed a perfect 
passion for surgery." 

" Your Will, Dot? " interrupted Bob. 

"Yes," reddening, "my Will." Then 
she added under her breath, "My Will 
that was ; pray God he is so still." When 
he was eighteen," she continued in a louder 
key, " my father, partly through friendship 
and partly because Will's presence was an 
additional source of income, took him to 
live with us as a gentleman apprentice. At 
that time I was fifteen years old, but I had 
known Will ever since my childhood. We 
had had many a romp together, and he 



176 A CRACK COUNTY. 

always distinguislied me from the other 
girls in the neighbourhood, and declared 
that I was his little sweetheart, and should 
marry him some day. When he came to 
live with us, and we saw each other con- 
stantly, our affection ripened. On his 
tw^enty- first birthday he went to my parents 
and asked them to give their consent to his 
courtship. To make a long story short, we 
were formally engaged." 

" And how old were you ? " asked her 
listener. " You look such a baby, even 
now." 

" Just a few days over seventeen. Will 
and I had one week's perfect happiness, 
and then bad times came for both of us. 
His father woke up one fine morning to 
find himself ruined throuo:li the absconding 
and malpractices of a fraudulent trustee. 
Instead of poor Will receiving an income, 
he had now to work for his living in 
earnest, and could congratulate him- 



LO\'E BEFORE MONEY. 177 

self on having adopted a profession. I 
hardly like to repeat all that took place 
in our family. Suffice it, that my mother, 
who as long as she thought Will's people 
were rich, quite approved of the marriage, 
and in fact had done her best to promote 
it, now suddenly turned round and refused 
to sanction our encra^ement." 

" That was awful hard lines upon you," 
murmured Bob. 

" Yes, it was, for she insisted upon my 
giving Will up, and having nothing more to 
say to him." 

" And did you ? " 

" How could I ? People can't change 
like that simply because they are told to. 
You can order a good many things in this 
world, but you can't order a loving heart 
to transfer its allegiance." 

" Aye, that's true," sighed Bob regret- 
fully. 

" I could no moredesert poor Will when 
VOL. III. 45 



178 A CRACK COUNTY. 

lie was in trouble, and most needed sympathy 
and encouragement, than fly," continued 
Dot warmly. " I refused flatly to obey 
my mother's bidding. Then came scenes, 
horrible to remember. We have never 
been quite friendly since." 

" Did not your father take your part ? 
He seems so fond of you." 

" Yes, in a way. He was far from 
approving of my mother's conduct, but he 
did not dare say much, on account of 
Matilda, whose poverty is always thrown 
in his face. Neither did he at all like the 
idea of a lon<x enj]fa£fem.ent, likelv to last 
for years. In short, the marriage was 
broken off, only Will and I vowed when we 
wished each other good-bye, that we would 
be true and faithful, and never, never, never 
marry anybody else." Dot here tried hard 
to suppress a sob. She could not tell any 
Kvinc: beiiiix, the new trouble that weii^hed 
so heavily upon her spirits. Her short 



LOVE BEFORE MONEY. 179 

interview vs^itli Will had left her sadder 
than before. He seemed to have become 
estranofed, and to be concealinix somethimr 
from her. 

"And wore your father and mother 
aware of this resolution ? " asked Bob, 

" Oh ! dear, yes. Papa did what he 
could to help us. -by getting Will a minor 
appointment at one of the big London 
hospitals, which at all events enabled him 
to keep himself. As for my mother, she 
refused to allow the poor boy's name to be 
mentioned in her presence, and so you see 
— you see," said the girl, breaking down 
completely, " that was how you never 
came to hear anything about him. But 
mother was not as much to blame as you 
seem to think, since although I considered 
myself engaged, she did not." 

Bob had grown paler and paler during 
the above recital. It effectually quenched 
any last remaining hopes, and made his 

45* 



180 A CRACK COUNTY. 

cup of bitterness overflow. Dot's love 
was evidently no mere idle fancy, but a 
deep-rooted passion, wliich neither opposi- 
tion nor distance had been able to over- 
come. That fortunate Will ! What if he 
were penniless ? He envied him from the 
bottom of his heart, and would gladly have 
changed places with him, had it been 
possible. 

" Do you understand ? " said Dot, won- 
deriniT at his continued silence. 

"Yes," he said in a hoarse, constrained 
voice, " I understand, and there is nothing 
more to be said. I only beg pardon for 
my folly." 

•' Don't call it folly," she returned. " It 
is * kismet.' We mortals have really very 
little power over the march of events." 

" What were you crying about when I 
came in ? " he asked abruptly. 

She flushed crimson. It was impossible 
to reveal the distractin^r thought that tor- 



LOVE BEFORE MONEY. 181 

meiited lier, and wbicli was the real cause 
of her present disquietude. 

" It seems that one of the people in the 
village saw me at the station yesterday. 
Will was only passing through on business. 
I had not seen him for a whole year, and 
he wrote and begged me to meet him ; 
and oh ! Mr. Jarrett, I could not help 
doinfif so. I knew if I asked mamma's 
leave she would not give it, so I went 
without. She was dreadfully angry, and 
said such cruel, cruel things." 

Dot could not tell the whole truth ; and 
it was easier to account for her red eyes in 
this way than in any other. 

" What sort of things ? " inquired Bob, 
not trusting himself to look at his com- 
panion. 

" She went on about my giving Will up, 
and called him a pauper and horrible 
names, which made my blood boil, and 
then she wanted me to promise to " 



182 A CEACK COU.NTY. 

" Marry me, eh ? " lie said grimly. 
" Well, go on," he continued, as Dot 
turned scarlet. " Had you any other 
cause of trouble, or was that the sole 
one ? " 

^'Is it very wicked to wish for things 
one can't have ? " she rejoined innocently. 

" I don't know ; but if it is, I am a 
veritable fiend at this moment." 

"I do so wish I had five thousand 
pounds." 

" Five thousand pounds 1 Why, what 
would you do with such a sum ? " 

" Give it to Will, of course. He has a 
splendid opening. An excellent practice has 
been offered to him in one of the suburbs 
of London, which is worth between four 
and five hundred a 3^ear, but tlie present 
practitioner would have to be bought out, 
and that is just what Will can't do." 

'' Is there no chance of his ^ettinc: the 
money, or of his father helping him ? " 



LOVE BEFORE MONEY. 183 

" No, none, whatever. Mr. Barrington 
can't, poor man, even if he would. We 
had a long talk about it yesterday, and put 
our heads together, but neither of us 
could see our way in the least. Will says 
this practice would be the making of him, 
and that it is absurd for people to think of 
marrying without a proper income." 

" Was he always so wise ? " inquired 
Bob. 

She hesitated a moment, and then with 
a sudden burst of tears, said, "No, not 
always. Once upon a time he never seemed 
to care about the money part of the business, 
but he does now." 

" And was that what you were crying 
about. Dot? " 

" Yes, I suppose so. What with one 
thing and another, I felt regularly out of 
sorts this morning." 

Bob stood up, as if to go. A wild, 
insensate joy surged up into his heart 



184 A CRACK COU^'TY. 

when he heard that a very real obstacle 
existed, which would j)revent the girl from 
becoming Will Barrington's wufe, at all 
events for a considerable time. Delay 
meant a chance still. He might profit by 
the young people's difficulties. The next 
moment he felt thoroughly ashamed of him- 
self for harbouring such a feeling. Was 
this his love ? this his devotion ? 

What a poor, base, selfish passion was 
that, which refused to rejoice in the 
happiness and welfare of its object. How 
mean and unworthy of an honest man. A 
flush of self-abasement coloured his cheek. 

" Dot," he said, " answer me one ques- 
tion, though it is absurd my asking it. Do 
you care very much for this Will of yours, 
so much that you feel as if you could not 
live without him ? " 

She looked up into his face. The solem- 
nity of his manner awed her. 

" Yes, Mr. Jarrett, that is exactly how 



LOVE BEFORE MONEY. 185 

I do feel. You are not angry with me, 
are you ? " 

" Angry ? No ; wliy should I be angry 
simply because the love of as dear and 
honest a girl as ever walked this earth is 
not for me ? Only I wish to goodness that 
Will had never been born." 

" He came first," she said simply. " I 
knew him long before I knew you. I can't 
help myself now." 

His sense of rectitude admitted. the plea. 
There was no gainsaying its truth. 

" Yes," he said, " he came first, lucky 
beggar. That's where the mischief lay. 
And now I am going. Good-bye, Dot, dear, 
may God bless^'you, and send you health 
and happiness." 

The tears trickled down her face. There 
was something in her heart wdiich she 
scarcely understood, and which she sup- 
pressed as treason to Will. 

" Good-bye, Mr. Jarrett. You will let 



]86 A CEACK COl:^■TY. 

me be your friend still, ^von't you ? I — I 
' —shall see you sometimes ? " 

" Yes, most certainly. But I think I 
shall go away for a bit — at all events until 
I have got over this." Then he took her 
hand in his, and added hastih% " And, I 
sa}', Dot, don't be low-spirited. Look at 
the cheerful side of things, there's a dear. 
I feel certain they'll all come right in the 
end." And with that he was gone, leaving 
her to wonder what was the special quality 
which enabled him, when he suffered so 
cruelly himself, to draw a veil over his own 
disappointment, and seek only to comfort 
her. All at once she realized that he had 
even higher attributes than she had given 
him credit for. The pleasant, upright, 
straightforward, yet withal somewhat sim- 
ple and unpolished youth was capable of 
real heroism. She felt that had it not been 
for Will's prior claims, she never could 
have sent him away. But Bob's heart as 



LOVE BEFORE MONEY. 187 

lie walked towards home miglat have been 
made of lead. 

Every hope that had ever nourished it, 
and caused it to beat fast and slow by 
turns, was now finally crushed. He felt as 
if his life were at an end. All the joy and 
the physical enjoyment of existence had 
vanished. What were wealth and position 
without Dot to share them ? 

Henceforth there was nothing to look 
forward to, nothing to strive for, nothing to 
live for. He looked up abstractedly at the 
sky. It was grey and sombre. But not 
greyer or more sombre than his thoughts. 
He glanced at the cold earth, enshrouded in 
spectral mist. It was drear and gloomy. 
But not drearier or gloomier than seemed 
his future. 

How the wind blew, and soughed thruugh 
the leafless trees! How it penetrated to 
the very bones, and defied even the warm- 
est clothing. 



188 A CEACK COU^'TY. 

And out in Australia the sun was 
shining, the cattle were straying over the 
brown ground, panting for shade, and his 
mother was probably at that very moment 
basking in the verandah .with the little 
ones around her. Oh ! the sun, and the 
warmth, and the peace. How he longed 
for them all. With Schopenhauer, his 
weary soul cried out for " the blissful re- 
pose of nothing." 

And then a chilly blast opposed his 
progress, the rain came sleeting down, and 
he coughed. The cough reminded him 
that the body has inherited a heritage of 
pain. Through his back, through his 
chest and his shoulder-blades there stole a 
dull acliino: sense of discomfort, which 
came as an aggravating accompaniment to 
his mental miser}^, just as if the one were 
not enou2[li without the other. 



CHAPTER X. 

JUMPING MUDDYEORD BOTTOM. 

Fortunately, unhappy thoughts, like 
everything else on this earth, are subject 
to the law of finalitj^ Before long Bob's 
meditations were interrupted in an alto- 
gether unexpected fashion. 

As he turned in at the gate of his own 
park, the blast of a horn fell upon his ears, 
waking echoes that had slept silent for 
many a day ; and a few minutes afterwards 
he found himself overtaken by the whole 
of the Morbey Anstead Hunt, who chased 
their fox into his shrubberies, and pursued 
him hotly, until the hounds became per- 
plexed by the number of fresh animals that 
sprang up. The rain now came down in 
torrents, discharged with icy force from a 



ICO A CEACK COUNTY. 

lowering cloud overhead. So fierce was 
this shower that it caused a halt in the 
proceedings, and people wdth one accord 
began to look about for an available place 
of shelter. 

"Won't you come in? You had much 
better all come in," cried Bob, addressing 
friends and foes alike. '' It's not a bit of 
good standing out there and getting wet 
through. Come in, come in, and welcome." 

So hearty was the hospitality offered, and 
so intensely disagreeable the weather, that 
a considerable number of people gladly 
responded to his invitation. One set the 
example to the other, and very soon there 
w^as quite a crowd of men and ^vomen 
inside the spacious hall of Straightem 
Court, tossing off Bob's brown sherry with 
evident relish, and nibbling daintily at 
sandwich or biscuit. The servants had 
not had such a bustling up for many a 
year, and were amazed at so heterogeneous 



ju::mping muddyfoed bottom. 191 

an influx of visitors, tlie majority of whom 
their late master would not have condes- 
cended to talk to, much less ask beneath 
his roof. " Quantity, but not quality," 
sneered the pompous butler to his satellite, 
as he passed him bearing a loaded tray of 
empty glasses. As for Bob, it cheered him 
to see human faces around. It w^as far 
better than coming^ home and finding the 
place empty, and having nothing to do but 
sit down and think over the events of the 
morning. He tried to drive away thought 
by moving about among his guests and 
personally attending to their wants, and he 
won the hearts of all the farmers present 
by ringing the bell and ordering up some 
very choice old port for their especial 
benefit, and wishin^f c^ood luck to ao-ri- 
culture. But he looked in vain for Lord 
Littelbrane. His lordship was as obstinately 
stand-off as on the never-to-be-foro^otten 
occasion of Stiffton Flat races. Neither 



192 A CRACK COL'NTY. 

could he discern General Prosieboy, wdiicli 
caused him some slight wonderment, for he 
had made a pretty correct estimate of that 
gentleman's character. 

However, he would probably have felt 
consoled for his absence, had he been 
aware of the fact, that the gallant old 
u^arrior was at that very moment imbibing 
a glass of stiff whisky and water in a 
covered yard at his (Bob's) expense, and 
exchanging witticisms with the under- 
housemaid. 

Ladies are proverbially brave, and Lady 
De Fochsey, not calculating on quite such 
a day, had gone out hunting with the rest. 
StifTshire was a county that offered but few 
resources for the stay-at-homes. Those who 
did not follow the chase led lives of absolute 
stao-nation ; and a frost was terrible, for all 
the idle young men went posting off to 
London immediately, and there were none 
but old fogies left to talk to. 



JUMPING MUDDYFORD BOTTOM. 193 

"Now her ladyship's smart scarlet jacket, 
with its white facings, light waistcoat and 
etceteras, had cost the best part of sixteen 
guineas ; as a consequence she entertained 
a erreat reo-ard and veneration for it. 
Having sallied forth without a covert coat, 
she was in considerable trepidation at the 
thought of the beautiful, extra fine cloth 
stretching, and the entire garment thus 
becoming too large. It fitted without a 
wrinkle at present, but what might be the 
result if once it "fot wet throu^^^h ? This 
was the first season she had ventured to 
appear in " pink," and so far she had been 
fortunate enough to escape any drenching 
rain. The scarlet came out as fresh and 
bright as ever, and filled her every time she 
wore it with an impression of her own 
good looks, which to a naturally pretty 
woman was eminently agreeable and g^ti- 
fying in the extreme. 

But to-day the weather threatened to 
VOL. III. 46 



194 A CRACK COUNTY. 

rob this much-prized garment of all its 
brilliancy. After her last somewhat un- 
friendly parting with Mr. Jarrett, she had 
resolved in a fit of petulance to have 
nothing more to say to him. There was 
a point when running after men became a 
nuisance, and did not repay the inevitable 
trouble. If, in spite of all his aptitudes, 
Bob refused to act the part of " kindred 
spirit," why, then she must look about her 
and find one elsewhere. A vulgar saying, 
but a true, had it that there were " as 
many fish in the s^a as ever came out of 
it." 

It was quite . possible to establish 
pyschological relations with some in- 
dividual more responsive, and altogether 
endowed with finer sensibilities. Mr. 
Jarrett was good-looking, but horribly 
matter-of-fact. He looked at things from 
quite a vulgar and material point of view. 

In spite of such reflections, when her 



JUMPING MUDDYFORD BOTTOM. 195 

ladyship saw several of her friends and 
acquaintances march boldly into Straightem 
Court, after first leaving their horses in the 
spacious stables, she put her pride in her 
pocket, and followed suit. The scarlet 
jacket was more important at this juncture 
than dignity ; already there were great, 
dark splashes upon it, and she could almost 
fancy that the waist had begun to expand. 

So she jumped hastily to the ground, 
threw her reins to the nearest groom, and 
entered the house without more ado. Her 
theory was, that woman should always 
cultivate a chameleon-like nature, since in 
the first place circumstances forced her to 
be adaptive ; and in the second, it gave her 
such an enormous advantage, when she 
could present many fronts to her natural 
enemy — man. Nothing disconcerted him 
so much as blowing hot and cold by turns. 

When Bob saw who the new arrival was, 
a smile spread over his features. 

46* 



196 A CRACK COUNTY. 

" Lady De Fochsey ! " he exclaimed in 
tones of unmistakable gratification, " this 
is indeed kind. I thought you had made 
up your mind, after our last meeting, to 
join the majority, and cut me dead." 

She looked a little embarrassed at this 
speech, but turned it off with a laugh. 

" You were a very foolish, headstrong 
boy, but I dare say you have grown wiser 
by this time, and at any rate, I intend to 
give you another chance," she said with a 
pretty arch smile. 

" I'm deliu^hted to hear it. I could not 
bear to think we had quarrelled." 

*' It was your own fault," she rejoined, 
sipping at a glass of sherry which Bob had 
just handed her. " But as a proof of my 
magnanimity I give you your choice. 
What is it to be, war or peace ? Decide 
either way 3'ou like." And she made a little 
coquettish grimace, quite thrown away upon 
the person it was intended to captivate. 



JUMPING MUDDYFOED BOTTOM. 197 

" Oil 1 peace, peace," he murmured 
hurriedly ; "I am far too miserable at 
the present moment to care to be at 
loggerheads with any one." 

She raised her eyebrows in astonishment, 
and looked at him keenly and critically. 
As she did so, she was struck all at once by 
the altered expression of his countenance, 
which made it appear almost ten jesivs 
older. His despondency and dejection were 
so great that he did not even seek to 
conceal them, as most certainly he would 
have striven to do later on. A deep soul- 
weariness prevents good acting. 

" Why, Bob," she ejaculated, falling back 
into the familiar style of nomenclature first 
adopted, " what on earth's the matter with 
you? You look all to pieces." 

" I look what I am, then." 

" But what's wrong. What are you 
miserable about ? " 

" No — no — nothing," he stammered in 



198 A CKACK COU^'TY. 

return ; " at least, nothing that I care to 
talk of." 

" Is it money ? " 

"No." 

•' Business ? " 

" No." 

" Family worries ? " 

"No." 

" Then it's love as a matter of course. 
It can't possibly be anything else." 

He tossed off a glass of wine, but made 
no reply. She, however, needed none. 

" 1 suppose the ' beautiful being ' who I 
chaffed you about the other day is at the 
bottom of this tremendously tragical affair, 
eh?" she resumed insistently. "Has the 
young person not been kind ? " 

Bob still maintained an obstinate silence. 
It was torture to have his freshly -inflicted 
wound so mercilessly probed by a cruel 
female hand. He writhed like a captured 
bird caught in a net. 



JUMPING MUDDYFOKD BOTTOM. 199 

" Come, it's not very civil of you to 
decline to answer a question made by a 
lady. How is slie ? " 

"How is who?" he asked irritably, 
goaded into speech at last. 

" Why ! your little friend in the patched 
habit — the doctor's daughter ; or if you 
want it put clearer, the girl you were 
carrying on with so outrageously." 

The blood flew to his brow. Indignation 
made every muscle quiver. 

" I presume you mean Miss Lankester ! 
and as for carrying on, as you call it, I'm 
not carrying on at all." 

" Oh ! aren't you ? Since when have 
you come to your senses, pray ? " 

" Since half -past ten o'clock this 
morning, if you must know the precise 
hour." 

" Well, I'm glad you've escaped from 
that exceedingly forward and immodest 
young woman. And all I can say is, that 



200 A CEACK COUNTY. 

the way she ran after you out hunting was 
really quite disgusting.'' 

"She didn't do anything of the sort," he 
retorted angrily. " And please don't 
slander her." 

" I'm not slandering her ; nasty, sly 
little thinor, thouo-h I'm sure she deserves 

it." 

" Yes, you are, and if you want to hear 
the truth of the matter, I'll tell it you, 
rather than stand by and hear Miss Lan- 
kester abused." 

"Well?" said her ladyship interroga- 
tively, making no attempt to conceal her 
curiosity. 

" Miss Lankester, instead of behaving in 
the manner you assert, happens to be 
already engaged, and won't have a word to 
say to me. There ! " And Bob clenched 
his teeth in anguish. 

She shrugged her shoulders with a truly 
provoking gesture of incredulity. That a 



JUMPING MUDDYFORD BOTTOM. 201 

person in the exceedingly humble position 
of a country doctor's daughter, should 
stick to any pre-formed engagement, when 
she had the chance of securing Mr. Jarrett, 
of Straightem Court, surpassed her com- 
prehension altogether. Her mind could 
not realize the possibility of so tremendous 
an act of folly. 

*' Pshaw ! What's the good of telling me 
such nonsense as that. I really wonder 
where you expect to go to." 

But again he relapsed into silence. Her 
lively sallies could not succeed in rousing 
him from the dejection in which he was 
steeped. This fact dawned upon her by 
degrees. She began to be aware that some- 
thing was very seriously wrong with him. 
Now that there was no longer any question 
of rivalry she could afford to be generous 
and sympathetic. Besides, men were often 
caught on the rebound. If he liad not 
been so frood-lookinfj she would not have 



202 A CKACK COUIS'TY. 

troubled herself about liim one bit.'^but as 
it was, she could not help feeling interested 
in his sorrows — imaginary or otherwise. 

"Bob," she said with increasinor kindli- 
ness. " Am I to understand that you have 
proposed co this little insignificant girl, and 
that she has actually refused you ? " 

He turned sharply away. Her eyes 
seemed to sear him like scorching flame. 
Why could she not leave him alone ? What 
was it to her, whether he had asked Dot 
Lankester to be his wife or not ? 

" Lady De Fochsey," he said with a 
petulant gesture, " you are of course at 
liberty to draw any conclusions you choose 
from our conversation. I can only say 
that the subject is a painful one, and I 
would feel obliged by your not discussing 
it. I — I " — breaking down suddenly — 
'' am very unhappy." 

She might be foolish, but apart from her 
vanities and coquetry, she was by no means 



JUMPING MUDDYFORD BOTTOM. 203 

a bad-hearted woman. Moreover, slie felt 
that she had pressed him a trifle un- 
generously. His utter despondency caused 
her to experience a sensation of genuine 
emotion, such as she had not felt for a 
long time. 

How nice it must be to be loved like 
this. How happy it would make her to 
inspire so real a passion. 

There was something artless and engag- 
ing about him ; simple, perhaps, yet withal 
different from other men of her acquaint- 
ance. His youth, too, appealed to her. 
Ever since she had turned five-and-twenty 
she had developed a strong partiality for 
boys. Candour and innocence were 
refreshing from their very rarity. 

" Look here, Bob," she said, " you and 
I may have had our little differences, but 
I'm not one to bear malice, and if you feel 
low-spirited, and in want of sympathy and 
consolation, why then," giving his hand a 



204 A CRACK COUNTY. 



Lj^entle pressure, " you know where to 



come." 



A lump rose up in his throat. He was 
much too wretched to care to avail himself 
of the invitation, but he felt that it was 
kindly meant. And a little kindness goes 
such a long way when one is in trouble. 
In a curiously husky voice he said, 
" Thank you," and then hurried away to 
the nearest window, where he stood for 
several seconds resolutely forcing back a 
certain moisture that dimmed his eyesight. 
Lady De Fochsey had never been so near 
converting him into a medium capable of 
receiving and transfusing electric force, but 
her success was due to human sympathy 
and not to spiritualistic agencies. A break 
in the sky, a gleam of sickl}^ lig^^t, and an 
abatement in the rain now caused those 
within doors to hurr}- out in search of their 
horses. 

Directly his guests showed symptoms of 



JUMPING MUDDYFORD BOTTOM. 205 

departing, Bob went upstairs and hastily 
donned hunting attire. He might as well 
go out as stay at home ; moreover, he felt 
in a mood when, to ride recklessly at a 
certain number of big fences, and to gallop 
at full speed across the green pastures 
would act as a sedative and bring relief to 
his overwrought nerves. 

He had previously ordered Kingfisher to 
be got ready. He ha.d never yet been on 
his back, having, up till to-day, religiously 
reserved his best horse for Dot ; but now — 
and a wave of bitterness flooded his spirit 
— what was the use of any longer keeping 
him for that purpose ? After what had 
passed, he felt that nothing would ever 
induce her to ride him again, and place 
herself under an obligation. He remem- 
bered her original reluctance, which of 
course would henceforth be intensified. 

Oh ! how sad it was, to find all one's 
dreamings, dreams and not realities — to see 



206 A CKACK COUNTY. 

the airy structure of hope and love, so 
skilfully constructed in the chambers of 
one's mind, crumble away at the first un- 
expected stroke. What a blankness and 
dreariness remained behind when all the 
picturings of the imagination proved vain 
and could never be attained. How bright- 
ness turned to darkness, pleasure to pain, 
and youth to premature old age. Life was 
very, very cruel ; despair its key-note. So 
he mused as he mounted his horse. 

A minute or two later, Burnett sallied 
forth from the washhouse, where he had 
taken refucfe, and callinc: to his hounds to 
follow him, trotted out on to the lawn, 
where he was soon joined by the entire 
field. By this time there was not much 
chance of hitting of! the line of the hunted 
fox, so it was resolved to draw sundry plan- 
tations within the precincts of the park. 
A small spinney was first called upon, which 
immediately furnished a fine, white-tagged 



JUMPING MUDDYFORD BOTTOM. 207 

old fellow. Judi?inQ[ from his behaviour he 
appeared to be a stranger, for, unlike the 
home-bred article, he showed no disposition 
to linger, but at once set his mask straight 
for the open. 

Owing to the recent frost, the weather, 
and various causes, the Field was a much 
smaller one than ususal, and all those who 
meant '' going " could do so to-day, and 
had no excuse for lagging behind. Even 
the starting rush for the nearest available 
gate was comparatively mild, and no one 
got blocked for more than a few seconds. 
Consequently, everybody possessing the in- 
clination secured a good start. A chorus 
of melodious music filled the air. From 
deep-throated followers burst the familiar 
sound which cheers the heart of every 
thorough sportsman. Hounds dashed out 
of the spinney and flashed across the green- 
sward like a silver comet. 

What mattered then the wind and the 



208 A CEACK COU^'TY. 

rain, when two- and- twenty couple were 
racing ahead, throwing their tongues joy- 
ously and flinging after their quarry with 
glorious dash and resolution ? Who cared 
then if the sky were grey or blue, the 
atmosphere dry or moist, the wind chilly 
or the reverse ? Every mind, human as 
well as canine, was concentrated on the 
chase. A look of determination stole over 
men's features. They set their jaws, tight- 
ened their reins, settled themselves in their 
saddles, and prepared to ride hard in de- 
fiance of cold and wet. In another minute 
they were out of the park and into the 
fields beyond. Ilere the fun began, for 
Eeynard was evidently determined on put- 
ting roadsters to confusion, and chose a bee 
line across country. 

KiQ. the fences round Strai<2;htem villaf]^e 
were always, but to-day they seemed even 
bigger than usual, or else this crafty pug 
had a better notion of baulking the enemy. 



JUMPING MUDDYFORD BOTTOM. 20^ 

Without hesitation he led his foes straight 
down to a yawning bottom, with a thick- 
set fence on the near side, and a positively 
ghastly gully on the off. The line of pur- 
suit was checked. A more awkward ob- 
stacle could not well be imagined. In the 
annals of the Hunt it was recorded that no 
man had ever cleared Muddyford Bottom 
at this particular spot. 

With muttered execrations, the leading 
horsemen — Burnett amongst the rest — 
pulled up and looked round for a place 
where, with a crawl, a splash and a lucky 
scramble, they could get in and out. 

Bob had two advantages over his com- 
panions. He was a stranger and did not 
know the country, and he was reckless — at 
all events on this particular day. To break 
his neck out hunting seemed to him just 
then the highest good that was left to him 
in life. He courted death, though death, 
like a shy maiden, is apt to refuse too 
VOL. III. 47 



210 A CKACK COUNTY. 

ardent a wooer. The biircrer the fence, the 
more eagerly did Bob welcome it. It did 
not matter what evil befell him, now that 
Dot had given him his conge. Of any effect 
he was likely to produce, he did not think 
for an instant. He was much too miser- 
able to care any longer for other people's 
opinions. 

His face was drawn, his eyes wild and 
bloodshot. Those who noticed his appear- 
ance whispered that he had been drinking 
heavily, but this was a libel. He might 
not be over sane, but at all events liquor 
had nothing to do with his insanity. It 
was unrequited passion that rendered him 
obUvious to personal danger, and lent him 
a couraire borderincr on madness. 

Anyhow, whilst his neighbours were 
coasting up and down the Bottom, and 
hounds were rapidly disappearing from 
vision, though their keen notes came 
floating backward to the ear — for the ladies 



JUMPING MUDDYFORD BOTTOM. 211 

were garrulous to-day — lie took Kingfisher 
sharply by the head, turned him round and 
rushed him at the formidable chasm. 

The good horse was only just out of his 
stable, and as fresh as paint. He needed 
no second invitation, especially with the 
pack stealing away in front of him. 
Besides, it required an exceptionally 
awkward fence to stop him. Other horses 
might find StilTshire tax their powers, but 
it was not often that he failed to prove 
equal to the occasion. But best of all, 
his heart was in the right place. 

He made a magnificent bound, and did 
not attempt to refuse. Only when he saw 
what an abyss confronted him on the 
landing side, he jerked his hind quarters 
round with a desperate effort. Even then 
he dropped both hind legs, and threw Bob 
rio^ht on to his neck. For a second it was 
touch and go whether he would fall or not, 
but he was as active as a cat, and making 

47* 



212 A CRACK COUNTY. 

a fifallant strui?f]fle, recovered himself, and 
was up and away in less time than it takes 
to tell of. 

For once, Muddyford Bottom had been 
fairly jumped. It measured four and 
twenty feet across, and so much was it 
dreaded that not another soul ventured to 
follow Bob's example. He was alone with 
hounds, and gained an advantage which 
throughout the run none succeeded in 
wresting from him. 

The Mutual Adorationites n^nashed their 
teeth with impotent rage. They could not 
produce a Mmrod to compete with the 
much abused and despised " outsider," 
whom, without even knowinof, tliev had 
seen fit to condemn. Not one of their 
number could touch him. He showed his 
back to the whole crew, lords, ixenerals and 
captains, and in some quarters there was 
glee, in others, tribulation. 

Meantime, Bob pursued his victorious 



JUMPING MUDDYFOKD EOTTOM. 213 

career. His blood was literally on fire. 
A wild, hot glow pervaded his entire 
frame. He was scarcely conscious of his 
own actions. It still seemed to him as if 
he were trying to battle his way out of 
some dark nightmare which oppressed his 
spirit with a maddening intensity. He kept 
his eye vacantly fixed on the leading 
hounds, and took little or no heed of the 
intervening fences. Kingfisher was left 
to negotiate them as he pleased, and per- 
haps for that reason jumped all the 
more perfectly, for he dearly liked 
having his head and not being interfered 
with. 

And now it came on to pour again 
mercilessly. In five minutes the rain had 
penetrated through every portion of Bob's 
coat. But he never even noticed it. He 
was impervious to outside considerations. 
The chaos of his brain refused external 
detail. Even excitement could not 



214 A CKACK COUNTY. 

altogether chase away despair, though it 
lightened it for the time being. 

Had he been riding any other horse but 
Kingfisher, he must have " come to grief " 
a dozen times over. As it was, his escapes 
were marvellous. Oxers, bullfinches, 
break-neck timber, nothing could stop him. 
Where the hounds went there went he, 
himself and steed seeming to possess super- 
natural powers. 

That run is famous to this day in the 
chronicles of the Morbe}^ Anstead Hunt. 
The Field and the County Gentleman wrote 
such glowing paragraphs about it, that it 
is needless to describe it minutelv. Even 
those who most felt their defeat admitted 
that one man had the best of it throughout, 
and that this fortunate and much-to-be 
envied individual was Eobert Jarrett, Esq., 
of Straighten! Court. 

When, after fifty-five panting minutes. 
Bob pulled up his foaming horse, and 



JUMPING MUDDYFORD BOTTOM. 215 

held the dead fox aloft, amid a circle of 
clamouring hounds, whilst he waited for 
Burnett to make his appearance, he little 
dreamt of the glory he had gained, or 
the reputation won. Nevertheless, during 
those few sweet moments, he almost 
enjoyed himself and forgot Dot. But not 
for long. 

When the fun was over and the excite- 
ment at an end, then the internal force 
evaporated which had hitherto sustained 
him. A sick, weary, deadening feeling 
stole over his frame. He had but the 
one horse out, who had earned undying 
fame, but the gallant animal was done 
to a turn, which was not to be wondered 
at, seeing that having received no orders 
to the contrary, Matthews had watered 
and fed him as usual. And now Bob 
patted Kingfisher mechanically on the 
neck, and turned his head towards 
home. 



216 A CRACK COUNTY. 

Hunting was a first-rate sport. No one 
relished it more than he did — but, after 
all, hunting was not Dot, and without 
Dot life had lost its flavour. 

Eleven miles as the crow flies had that 
good, stout-hearted fox taken him from 
Straightem Court. It was quite dark 
when he reached home. The short De- 
cember day had closed in, and the rain 
still descended with steady persistency. 

He felt it now, for the warmth which 
had animated his blood while the run lasted, 
had slowly given place to a deadly chill. 

He shivered as he rode under the dark 
trees of the avenue, and heard drop after 
drop roll to the ground. When he got 
into the stable yard, he was so stiff and 
so numbed that Matthews had to help 
him to dismount. His hands and feet 
had lost all sensation. 

" Take a warm bath, sir, take a warm 
bath, and 'ave a drop of something hot to 



JUMPING 3IUDDYF0RD BOTTOM. 217 

drink," counselled the groom, as liis old 
master stood and trembled. " It's been a 
mortal cold day, and you've got a regular 
chill on you." 

But Bob, instead of listening to good 
advice, insisted on loitering about, until he 
had ascertained that Kingfisher was none 
the worse for his exertions. 

" I should think m3^self a very poor sort 
of sportsman, Matthews," he said, " if I 
looked after No. One before lookins^ after 
my horse." 

Matthews smiled approvingly. The more 
he saw of Bob the better he liked him. 

" There's a many gentlemen," he said, 
" in this country who rides well, but there 
be mighty few who considers their 'osses 
afore themselves. Times 'as haltered since 
I was a boy. But now go and get changed, 
do-ee. What am I here for, except to see 
after the nags ? " Upon which. Bob entered 
the house. 



CHAPTER XL 

A PARTING BEQUEST. 

The next day Bob was seriously ill ; so ill 
that he was obliged to send for Doctor Lan- 
kester to come and see him in his pro- 
fessional capacity. Tie had had no rest 
all night, a sharp pain in his side, accom- 
panied by an unusual difficulty in breathing 
having quite prevented his getting any 
sleep. During the long hours of darkness 
he jumped the Muddy ford Bottom a 
hundred times in imagination, whilst every 
formidable fence cleared durinc^ that never- 
to-be-forgotten run, appeared photographed 
upon his brain with the distinctness of a 
miniature. 

Doctor Lankester found him sitting 



A PAETINa BEQUEST. 219 

cowering over a blazing fire in the smok- 
ing-room. 

His eyes were bright, his cheeks unnatu- 
rally flushed, his skin dry and parched ; 
yet, in spite of these and other feverish 
symptoms, he complained of an intense 
feeling of chilliness. 

" You say you have a pain in your left 
side ? " asked the doctor. 

"Yes, dreadful. It's just like a knife 
runnino^ throu^^h one." 

" H'm ! And you experience difficulty 
in breathing ? " 

" I do. Once or twice during the night 
I thouorh I should have been suffocated.'* 

" Are you hot and cold by turns, or do 
you feel cold all the time ? " 

" Now you mention it, I get awfully 
warm every now and then." 

" Ah ! I thought so. You will have to 
be careful, my dear boy, and do exactly as 
I tell you." 



220 A CHACK COUNTY. 

Although Doctor Lankester was far too 
experienced in his profession to alarm a 
patient needlessly, his grave countenance 
showed that he did not at all like Bob's 
appearance. Acting with medical au- 
thority, he ordered him back to bed at 
once, recommending warmth and quiet. 
He saw these orders obeyed, and remained 
some little time giving instructions to 
Charles, who was appointed to wait upon 
the invalid. 

" What a fuss about nothing ! " exclaimed 
Bob, trying to speek cheerily. But though 
he professed a great disdain of coddling, 
he was glad to be forced to lie still, since 
he realized that he was considerably worse 
than he chose to admit. 

Doctor Lankester gave him no choice, 
but put him on the sick list there and 
then, and in his heart of hearts he thank- 
fully submitted. 

After a while the doctor took his leave, 



A PAETING BEQUEST. 221 

saying lie would send round some suitable 
medicine and look in ao^ain later on. 

He was as good as liis word, for towards 
evening he once more visited Straiglitem 
Court, and stayed there over an hour, 
personally seeing that all his directions had 
been carried out. This having been done, 
he was distressed to find Bob worse instead 
of better, and the suspicions which he had 
entertained earlier in the day now received 
the fullest confirmation. He no lono^er 
doubted what his friend's malady was, and 
therefore took it upon himself to give the 
necessary orders. 

Entirely on his own responsibility he 
telegraphed to a well-known London 
institution for a trained nurse to be sent 
down the first thing the next morning. He 
knew novr that the young man's illness 
was no passing indisposition, but likely to 
prove a serious affair, requiring the 
greatest care and attention. Bob's lonely 



222 A CEACK COUNTY. 

position filled liim with compassion, and he 
was determined, individually, to do all he 
could do for him. 

When he reached home he said as much 
to his daughter. Mrs. Lankester had gone 
to dine with a relation, and was not 
expected back till the evening. 

" I'm afraid our friend Jarrett is in a bad 
way," he concluded, after giving Dot a 
detailed account of his patient's condition. 
" I don't like the look of thini^s at all. He 
doesn't know it, but he has got a weak 
chest naturally, and our English climate 
has played the bear with him." 

" Oh ! papa," cried the girl, alarmed by 
the gravity of her fatlier's manner, " re- 
member how c^ood he has been to us. 
Don't let us leave the poor young man 
alone in that great, dreary house. Can't 
we have him here and nurse him ? " 

"He is scarcely in a fit state to be 
moved at present. Besides, your mother is 



A PARTING BEQUEST. 223 

not a good one with illness in the house. 
It fidgets her and puts her out." 

*^ True, but I can't bear to think of his 
having no one but servants to look after 
him." 

Her father smiled approval. She had 
inherited his own warm heart. 

" You don't consider me of much good, 
that's quite clear. Dot. Will you feel 
satisfied when I tell you that it is my 
intention to sit up with Mr. Jarrett to- 
night." 

" You ? Oh ! papa, that is kind of you. 
But is he very bad, then ? " 

" I'm afraid so. He is in for an attack 
of pleurisy, which threatens at any moment 
to assume a dangerous nature. It seems 
he went out hunting yesterday and got wet 
to the skin." 

"But he was here," she cried impul- 
sively. " He did not leave me till eleven 
o'clock." 



224 A CEACK COUNTY. 

" I don't know liow that may be, but 
tlie lad told me himself he had gone with 
the hounds and caught a regular chill. 
Dot," with a kindly look stealing over his 
face, " we must pull him through if we 
can." 

•' Oh ! yes, yes ; of course we must. 
Only it all seems so sudden, and I can't 
realize that he is ill. But you will want 
a nurse. Why should not I be his nurse? " 

" I have already telegraphed for one." 

" May not I help ? I should like to if I 
might." And she looked up with a pair of 
pleading eyes. 

"You shall later on. Dot ; but jubt now 
I want you to stay at home and tell your 
mother when she comes back where I am 
spending the night, so that she need not be 
under any alarm." 

Two or three days passed away, and in 
spite of every care and all conceivable 
remedies, the patient showed no signs of 



A PARTING BEQUEST. 225 

improvement. In vain did Doctor Lankes- 
ter prescribe opium and calomel and apply 
mustard poultices ; they proved powerless 
to subdue tlie disease. Another doctor 
was called in, but he entirely approved of 
the treatment already adopted, and be- 
yond one or two triflin^^ susfi^estions had 
no advice to offer. Meantime Doctor 
Lankester was be^^innim? to enter- 
tain grave fears for the result, and re- 
doubled his attentions. What puzzled and 
distressed him most was the feeble vitalit}^ 
possessed by this apparently strong, healthy 
young man ; Bob seemed to have so little 
recuperative power, and so small a share of 
that physical clinging to life which is a 
characteristic of nine human being's out of 
ten. He could not help thinking that 
something lay heavy on his mind. 

Before lono: Bob became delirious, and 
then the good doctor guessed at the cause. 
He was deeply touched when he learnt how 
VOL. III. 48 



226 A CRACK COUNTY. 

great was the invalid's afTectiou for his 
(laughter. He would have welcomed him 
as a son-in-law for his own sake, quite 
apart from any worldly considerations, 
having contracted a great liking, for the 
young man. JN'ow he could only show his 
good will by devoting all his spare hours 
to him. 

At the end of an anxious week, Dr. Lan- 
kester almost gave up hopes of Bob's re- 
covery. True, the fever and pain had left 
him, but he seemed frightfully weak, and 
totally unable to rally. Unless some change 
speedily took place, he foresaw that death 
from exhaustion was imminent. 

On the morning of the eighth day, as he 
was sitting in the sick room, he was startled 
by seeing Bob's eyes fixed earnestly upon 
him, with an expression of fully restored 
consciousness, which boded well. 

"Doctor," he said feeblv, "tell me the 
truth ; I can bear it. Am — am I aoina" to 



A PAKTlNa BEQUEST. 227 

die ? " and his eyes looked larger and 
solemner tlian ever. 

Doctor Lankester made a vain effort 
to speak, but a lump rose up in liis throat, 
and when he tried to give a consolatory- 
answer, his voice failed him. 

" You need not trouble to tell me 
what I want to know," continued Bob, 
after a slight pause, during which he 
had narrowly watched his companion's 
countenance. " After all, it was a foolish 
question." 

" There — there may be a chance yet," 
faltered the doctor in return. " You seem 
better to-day." 

" Do I ? I'm sorry for that. The truth 
is, I don't care to go on living." 

" But, my poor, dear friend, you are so 
young to think. of death as a refuge from 
trouble," 

" That may be. But some young people 
feel as old as the hills, and long for rest, 

48* 



228 A CRACK COUxNTY. 

and I am one of them. Can't you — can't 
you understand ? " 

"Yes," huskily, "I think so. I wish it 
mi<dit all have been different." 

"Thank you, doctor. Thank you for 
saving^ those words. I always felt that I 
had a friend in you. But don't be angry 
with — with Dot," turning red as he pro- 
nounced the girl's name. '* It was not her 
fault" 

" No, I suppose not. These things can't 
be helped." 

" And you see, if — if she had grown to 
care for me, she would have been sorrv 
now, and as it is " — with a wan smile — 
'• nobody is much the worse. Dick will 
step into my shoes when I am gone, and 
the only person who will reall}- feel my loss 
deeply, will l)e my mother. Poor, dear old 
mum ! I wish I could have seen her ag^ain 
just to tell her not to mind." 

" Hush ! Bob, don't talk Hke that. You 



A PARTING BEQUEST. 229 

ma}^ pull through yet,'' cried Dr. Lankester. 
" My belief is you could if you would. It's 
your infernal indifference to life that keeps 
you back in my opinion. If only you had 
somethinof to look forward to vou would 
pick up in no time." 

" I believe I should," answered the 
patient with quiet conviction. " But that's 
not likely." 

Doctor Lankester's mouth was twitchinix. 
His eyes were full of tears. He could no 
longer hide his emotion, and rose as if to 
leave. 

" Are you going ? " said Bob. " If so, 
I wish you would do me a favour." 

" Of course I will. What is it ? " 

" I want you, please, to send to Stiffton 
for a solicitor, and tell him to drive over 
here at once." 

" Yes, Bob. Anything more ? " 

The colour flamed up into the young 
man's cheeks. 



230 A CEACK COUNTY. 

'• Doctor," he said hesitatingly, " do you 
— do you think Dot wouhl come and see 
me ? I should so like to speak to her once 
more." 

*' She shall come, but on one condition. 
You must not excite or tire yourself." 

Whereupon Doctor Lankester hurried 
out oi the room, too much overcome to 
continue the conversation. Any sudden 
emotion might prove fatal to the patient in 
his present condition ; on the other hand 
if Dot could inspire in him a wish to live, 
he was of opinion that Bob might still be 
saved. Yet, how was he to induce his 
daughter to transfer her affections from one 
man to the other ? The task seemed 
beyond his power, even were it right to 
attempt it. The issue must lie with God. 
Bob was closeted for a whole hour with 
the lawyer, and when Doctor Lankester 
re-entered the sick room, he was surprised 
to find him considerably stronger and more 



A PARTING BEQUEST. 231 

cheerful. Strange to say, the exertion 
appeared to have done him good, and his 
mind was evidently easier than it had been 
for some time past. 

" Now, please, fetch Dot," he called out 
impatiently, directly his medical adviser 
approached. 

" Have you not done enough for to- 
day ? " rejoined that gentleman. " Don't 
you think it will be wiser to wait till 
to-morrow ? " 

"Perhaps so, if I could make sure of 
there being one for me. Oh ! Doctor 
Lankester, if you knew how badly I want 
to see her you would not refuse my 
request." 

His words contained a touching pathos, 
which went straight to the c^ood doctor's 
heart. He would have given half he 
possessed to ensure for Bob not one but 
many to-morrows ; the sick man was so 
gentle and patient. He recognised with 



232 A CEACK COU^'TY. 

such docility and submission that life was 
but nature's plaything — a toy to be broken 
up at any moment, and hurled into the un- 
fathomable abyss of eternity. He repined 
not, neither did he bemoan his hard fate. 
He was content to go — content to leave the 
cold, pitiless earth, the winter snows and 
summer sunshine, content even to part from 
his beloved ; because she was not his 
beloved, but another's. 

Only a little common tragedy every day 
played out to the bitter end by men and 
women possessing loving and tenacious 
hearts. As Dot had truly said, " Oh ! the 
pity of it. The pity of it." 

Quarter of an hour afterwards, the airl 
entered Bob's presence. He had altered so 
much in these few days that she hardly 
knew him, and the change shocked her to 
such an extent that she was seized by a 
fit of trembling. For his sake she had 
determined to be brave and composed. 



A PAllTING BEQUEST. 233 

What were her bravery and composure 
worth, since at one sight of the invalid 
they vanished ? 

The tears trickled down her cheeks, 
and she bowed her head and sobbed 
aloud. 

Her emotion affected him deeply. 

" Dot," he said in a quivering voice, 
" don't cr}^, dear. There's nothing to cry 
about." 

" Oh ! Mr. Jarrett, I— I can't help it. I 
meant to behave well, indeed I did." 

" Call me Bob, will you ? I should like 
to hear you call me by my Christian name 
just for once, and," with a spasm of pain, 
" I don't think Will would be jealous." 

" flush ! " she cried, in an altered voice, 
" don't talk of Will." 

'' I must. It is for that purpose I have 
sent for you. The other day you told 
me that you wanted live thousand 
pounds " 



234 A CEACK COU>'TY. 

"Oh, Mr. Jarrett — Bob, pray don't think 
of my foolish words." 

He raised himself on one elbow, and 
looked at her. 

"Dot," he said, "I hope you believe 
that I love you well enough to serve 
you." 

" Yes, yes, indeed. I don't deserve such 
love as yours." 

"If it pleases me to make you a gift of 
five thousand pounds, and to render you 
and Will happy, you won't refuse me, will 
you ? It is the last favour I may ever 
ask." 

To his surprise, she flung herself down 
by the bedside, and began sobbing as if 
her heart would break. 

"Dot ! " he said in alarm, " what have I 
said ? What have I done ? " 

" Oh ! — you — you are — so good. Your 
generosity — touches m — me to the quick. 
But — I — I — cannot take this monev. Be- 



A PARTING BPIQaESr. 235 

sides," she added despairingly, " it is of no 
use to me now.'' 

" Why not ? Are you too proud to 
accept even this small gift from me ? " 

"Proud! No, but I am crushed and 
miserable. Love, faith, honour, everything 
seems unreal and a delusion, and the ideals 
I have raised, the gods before whom have 
bowed down and worshipped, prove brazen 
images that topple down at a touch." And 
her eyes shone fiercely. 

" Dot, what do you mean ? What are 
you talking about ? " 

" You said you were my friend, Bob. 1 
wonder whether you will understand me ? 
I have suffered the pains of Purgatory for 
^Ye whole days, and never spoken of them 
to a soul. Now I feel as if I could keep 
my sufferings to myself no longer, and must 
talk to somebody. Five thousand pounds,'' 
and she laughed hysterically. " You give 
me five thousand pounds ! llow noble, how 



236 A CRACK COUNTY. 

generous, how good ! But what is it for ? 
what is it for ? " 

" To enable you to marry Will," he said 
as steadily as he could, for the force of her 
passion shook him. 

She drew in her breath with a sharp, 
hissing sound, and when she spoke next it 
was in a cold, constrained voice. 

" Will will not marry me. He is married 
already." . . . 

At these words, the life blood seemed to 
come tinoflinof and suroinc^ back throucfh 
Eobert Jarrett's veins. It was as if an 
electric shock had been administered, which 
diffusing vitality over his whole being, 
snatched him from the very jaws of death. 
Will married ! Dot free ! Good God ! how 
different the future appeared all at once ! 
In the suddenness of his joy, he almost 
forgot the girl's misery and despair. Then, 
as he looked at her tear-stained face, a 
mighty compassion made his heart swell. 



A PARTINa BEQUEST. 237 

How slie suffered, and he too had sufTered, 
and knew what unfortunate love meant. 

He put out his hand in silent sympathy, 
and she clasped it nervously, bowing down 
her head, until he could feel the hot, salt 
tears dropping one by one upon it. 

" Hot, dear," he said presently, " tell me 
how this came about. You need not be 
afraid of me." 

She stooped her lips to the hand which 
she held in her own, and kissed it with a 
sudden impulse. 

" I loved him so," she said brokenly, ^' I 
thought him so good, and true, and noble. 
. 1 would have stuck to him all mv 
days, and not minded how poor he was, or 
— or what I did for him. And now it 
seems as if it were n — not Will I had cared 
for all these years, but some poor, con- 
temptible thing who w — when he got 
we.Sivy of my blind adoration had not even 
the courage to tell me so. But that is the 



238 A CRACK COL'NTY. 

way with we poor foolish women. We 
put our lovers up on such higli pedestals, 
that they come tumbling down with a 
crash, and shatter our weak hearts to 
pieces. 

He let her ramble on as she liked, 
knowing; that before lono; she would tell 
him all. He saw her smarting under the 
first cruel pains of disillusion, of wounded 
pride and outraged affection. It was only 
natural that she should pour forth her 
piteous tale incoherently, and he lay back 
on his pillow, uttering a soft word of sym- 
pathy now and again, and trying to prevent 
the mad joy that possessed him from be- 
coming too apparent. He felt that it was 
indecent — nay, selfish, yet would he have 
been mortal had not his brain reeled with 
intoxication at the thought that, should 
God spare his life, he mi^ht noww in Dot ? 
— Dot, whose sweet feminine disposition 
revealed itself in every word ! 



A PARTING BEQUEST. 239 

This was tlie sum and substance of her 
tale. 

For months past Will's letters had grown 
rarer and shorter. The girl treasured 
them up, and never wearied of making- 
fresh excuses for the writer, though her 
woman's instinct told her that his love was 
no longer the same as formerly. Time and 
distance had cooled its ardour in a marked 
deoTce. But she struo^c^led a^'ainst the 

O (Do o 

conviction, as would do any tender trusting 
girl in her place, and flew to meet him at 
the railway station, full of fluttering hope 
and sweet forgiveness. At the first touch 
of his lips she felt that some subtle altera- 
tion had taken place, that, in short, an 
estrangement, though none of her making, 
divided them. He had hinted at con- 
fidences, at news which it was imperative 
to break, and yet maintained a torturing 
reserve. His talk was chiefly about the 
new practice, and how it was to be ac- 



2J0 A CEACK COUNTY. 

quired, and he succeeded in impressing Dot 
with a notion that it was her duty to find 
the requisite five thousand pounds, and if 
she failed in doinsf so, the enfra^ement 
between them must be considered at an 
end. 

" Will said he should find the money if 
I didn't," sobbed poor Dot, through her 
tears ; " that a man had no right to spoil 
his whole career on account of an early 
attachment, and hinted that there was 
somebody else willing to marry him at a 
moment's notice." 

" The brute ! " ejaculated Bob in- 
dignantly. " Just fancy any man being 
such a fool as to throw away a treasure 
like YOU." 

Dot sighed and wept. 

" I loved him so — I loved him so," she 
repeated piteously. " But he was not what 
I thought or he never could have acted as 
he did. If he had cared for me reallv, it 



A PARTING BEQUEST. 241 

would have been impossible to liim to 
marry another woman, simply because she 
had a few thousand pounds and I had not. 
It is a terrible shock to discover the worth- 
lessness of a person you have looked up to 
since your childhood. I feel as if I should 
never recover from it. See, here is the 
letter he sent me five days ago, ever}^ word 
of which is branded on my memory in 
characters of fire." 

Bob, though tired, managed to read the 
contents, which were as follows ; 

" Dear Little Dot, — When I met you at 
the railway station you looked so pretty and 
were evidently so glad to see me, that I could 
not bring myself to tell you certain things 
which you had a right to know. I am a 
poor devil who has to gain his own living, 
and who cannot afford to marry the girl of 
his choice. Those five thousand pounds of 
which we spoke were essential to my career. 
VOL. III. 49 



212 A CRACK COUNTy. 

I knew tliat I could not look to find them 
with you, and so — and so (you will think 
me a beast, and God knows I feel like one) 
I became engaged to a wealthy widow, 
several years older than myself, who for 
some rhyme or reason, appeared to have 
taken a great fancy to me. When you get 
this all will be over and I shall be married 
to her. Dot, can you — will you forgive 
rae ? — Yours in heart still, William 
Barrington." 

" The cur ! " ejaculated Bob contemp- 
tuously. " He is faithful, neither to the 
woman he professes to love, nor to the one 
he has basely married for her money. 
Don't be angry with me, Dot, for saying 
so, but I think you have had a lucky 
escape." 

She made no answer. Was it possible 
that he was right ? She could not admit 
the fact just at present, though her aching 



A PARTING BEQUEST. 243 

heart cried out that it had been cruelly and 
treacherously deceived. 

" This Will Barrinfyton never could have 
been worthy of you from the beginning," 
continued Bob. " A man capable of 
writing such a letter as that is a poor, 
mean-spirited hound." 

" If only he had trusted me," said Dot 
bitterly, " and told me the truth, I think I 
could have forgiven him everj^thing, but 
now — now," and her voice shook, '* I have 
not only lost Will, but all my faith and 
belief in human nature as well ; so much 
has gone that never can come back." 

Bob gave the hand he still held in his 
own a gentle pressure. 

" My dear, my love," he said, " you have 
indeed been cruelly treated, but don't fall 
into the mistake of thinkini:' that all men 
are blackguards, and incapable of a true 
affection. Dot, darling, if you would let 
me try to restore your faith in man, I 

49* 



244 A CRACK COUNTY. 

should very soon get well. It is you I 
want, YOU, without whom life is un- 
endurable." 

The tears gushed afresh to her eyes. 
What was this feeling stirring her heart ? 
Had she turned traitor so soon .^ " Don't 
ask anything of me now," she cried out in 
alarm. "You must give me time — you 
mu-t give me time." 

A radiant smile lit up Bob's pale face. 
Something in her tone and manner made 
him hope. " I will be very, very patient, 
and wait even as Jacob did for Eacliel." 

She drooped her head and did not 
speak. 

When Doctor Lankester returned from 
his rounds some half-an-hour later, he 
found Dot crying softly to herself and the 
patient fast asleep. He felt his pulse and 
turned to the girl with a look of inquiry. 

"Why, Dot!" he exclaimed, "what 
treatment have you been pursuing ? 



A PARTING BEQUEST. 215 

Eobert Jarrett is a different man already. 
He has managed to turn the corner and 
wiU live." 

She glanced up at her father ; then 
turned her blushing face away. 

How could she speak to him of the 
strange revolution going on within her 
bosom ? How tell him that a new love 
was springing up from the very ashes of 
the old ? 

But perhaps Dr. Lankester understood 
without being told. 



mm^ 



CHAPTEE XII. 



CO^XLUSION. 



From that day Bob mended rapidly. He 
had something to hope for now — a new 
object in life. Nevertheless two months 
went by before he regained his nsual 
health, and then Doctor Lankester strongly 
advised his leaving England whilst the cold 
spring winds Lasted. After much conversa- 
tion, it was ultimately settled between this 
pair of friends that Bob should return to 
Australia, in order to wind up his affairs 
there, and escort his mother and sisters to 
their new home. But before going on so 
long a journey, he felt he must speak to 
Dot ; she had been very shy and quiet of 
late, and yet the small germ of hope that 



CONCLUSION. 247 

had been planted in liis heart whilst he lay 
so ill, had gone on growing ever since. 

About a fortnight prior to his departure, 
he souo'ht her out. 

" Dot," he said, " I am going away." 

" Yes," she answered in faltering tones, 
" I know that." 

" Have you nothing to say to me before 
Heave?" 

"What can I say ?" she demanded with 
evident embarrassment. 

" You told me once that — that I must 
give you time. I have tried and am trying 
very hard still to be patient ; but Dot, 
dear, if you could speak one little word 
before I leave England, or give me the 
least encouragement, you don't know how 
happy it would make me." 

She was trembling all over. 

" What — what — do you want ^ " 

He advanced a step nearer, and held out 
his arms with infinite yearning. 



248 A CRACK COUNTY. 

^' I want you to tell me truly, if you 
think you can ever get to care for me a 
little bit ? I don't mean just yet. I have 
no right to expect that ; but after a while 
— even a long while if you like it best — is 
there any chance of my being able to win 

you ? " 

He stopped abruptly, and for a few 
seconds she maintained absolute silence. 

Then she becfan twitchini^ at the corner 
of her pocket-handkerchief, and at last in 
a very subdued way, as if heartily ashamed 
of herself, said almost in audibly, " I don't 
know what you will say to me. You will 
think me a most horribly capricious, 
changeable person, in short no better than 
a weathercock, but — but " 

•' But what, Dot ? For God's sake speak 
out, and let me know the worst." 

The small, sweet face broke up into 
smiles, a dear little dimple showed on the 
rounded chin, and the clear, frank eyes 



CONCLUSION. 243 

looked straight into his, with an expression 
which made his heart beat fast. " You 
have won me already. I care for you a 
very great deal as it is." 

Here was an astounding^ discovery. Bob 
could hardly believe his senses. 

" And Will ? " he cried sceptically, " what 
about him ? " 

The colour flew to her cheeks, dying 
them a vivid crimson. He meant no 
reproach to her constancy, but she con- 
strued it as one. 

" I knew you would think poorly of me," 
she resumed humbly and apologetically. 
"I think poorly of myself, and often 
wonder if it is I — /, Dot Lankester, who 
have changed so much in such a short 
space of time. You have a perfect right 
to doubt the sincerity of my affection. Ap- 
pearances are all against me. Perhaps 
some girls can continue to care for a man 
they no longer respect and esteem. I 



250 A CRACK COUNTY 

could not. It was not the actual Will 
Barrington I loved, but an ideal raised by 
my imagination. I see it now, though at 
the time I suffered tortures. Bob, I am not 
really changeable and inconstant, though 
probably you believe so, and if, in spite of 
the past, you care to make me your wife, 
I will do my best that you shall not 



rei2:ret it. 



>J 



Bob was wild with delight. In the first 
eostacy of his love, he vowed he would put 
off going to Australia, and spend the 
summer at Straiirhtem Court. But Mrs. 
Lankester suggested a plan which posi- 
tively fired liis brain. " Why not," she 
said, " get married quietly, and take Dot 
out with you, as a surprise to your mother 
and sisters ? There's not the least reason 
for any delay." The good lady went on the 
principle of striking when the iron is hot. 

Bob hailed this idea rapturously. Of 
course. Dot said No, when it was first 



CONCLUSION. 251 

mooted to her, and, equally, of course, tlie 
ardour of her lover and the united wishes 
of her parents succeeded in removing her 
objections. " Why not ? Why shouldn't 
she be happy, and see a little of the world 
when she got a chance ? She found it im- 
possible to answer that question, or to 
resist the pressure put upon her. 

So they were married without ^ any fuss 
or ceremony, and a few days afterwards, 
started off for Australia on their honey- 
moon. Of their various adventures en route 
it is unnecessary to speak. Suffice it 
that Dot completely won the hearts of 
her new relations, and after a delightful 
stay in Bob's old home, the whole party, 
with the exception of Dick, who was com- 
fortably installed in the farm, returned to 
Straighten! Court. 

Before people had fairly got over the 
astonishment occasione.l by Mr. Jarrett's 
wedding, there came another which sur- 



252 A CRACK COUNTY. 

prised tliem still more. Lord Littelbrane 
conducted Lady De Fochsey to the hy- 
meneal altar, thus administering a death- 
blow to the already disorganised Mutual 
Adorationites. Shortly after this event, his 
lordship was so shocked by the behaviour 
of some of his satellites, who actually left 
their cards on Mrs. Jarre tt, and vowed she 
was a very pretty, charming woman, that 
he resigned the mastership of the Morbey 
Anstead hounds in disgust. But he was 
still more annoyed when Bob took them, 
and by the end of his first season effected 
a complete revolution in the manners and 
customs of the Hunt. The new master soon 
became exceedingly popular with all classes, 
encouraged the presence of strangers, was 
civil and pleasant to everybody, and quite 
put Lord Littelbrane's nose out of joint. 

But that unfortunate nobleman had 
other causes of dissatisfaction. As the 
years rolled on, he became a thoroughly 



CONCLUSION. 253 

unhappy, dissatisfied and henpecked man, 
who hated and feared his wife, without 
darinof to fjive vent to his sentiments in 
her presence. He had indeed made an 
unlucky venture, for sad to say. Lady 
Liltelbrane disappointed expectation ; no 
son and heir appeared to continue the 
aristocratic race, and his theories of selec- 
tion turned out no better than theories 
generally do. 

By some strange, horrible and capricious 
freak of Nature, the long thought of and 
deeply pondered combination of beauty 
and birth, health and rank, youth and 
talent, failed to produce the desired results. 
No little sw^eet, shrill voices sounded in 
the Littelbrane apartments, no childish feet 
could be heard pattering down the long 
corridors. 

Year after year his lordship's hopes 
faded away, and the Castle became a scene 
of many marital squabbles. • 



254 A CRACK COUNTY. 

For Lady Littelbrane did not improve with 
age. She grew sharper of tongue, shorter of 
temper, more restless, frivolous and vain. 
She filled the house w^ith fast young men, 
mostly of the parasitic order, and carried 
on bare-faced flirtations with them under 
the very nose of her unhappy lord, whose 
notions of social decency were terribly 
shocked by such conduct. But it was 
useless expressing disapproval. His wife 
could master him, and knew it ; so that he 
got very little domestic peace. 

His chief pleasure consisted in creeping 
out to dine w^ith old General Prosiebov 
whilst she was entertainimx some of her 
gay acquaintances at home. 

Sad to relate, that staunch Avarrior had 
made friends wuth the Mammon of Un- 
ric^hteousness, althouo^h after a bottle of 
wine he w^ould still converse fluentlv about 
the departed glory of the Mutual Adora- 
tionites. 



CONCLUSION. 255 

For tlieir sun was on the wane. The 
M.A.'s, indeed, almost ceased to exist. The 
majority had gone over to the enemy, and 
pretty Mrs. Eobert Jarrett made many con- 
verts amongst their ranks. Her kindliness, 
cheeriness and sweet simplicity were hard to 
resist. Even the ladies, who at first turned 
up their noses at Dot, as " a little country 
doctor's daughter," were forced in time to 
admit that she was " quite a nice, refined 
and altogether unobjectionable person." 

And Bob ? Our honest, out-spoken, 
manly, rough Australian of the big heart 
and unpolished manners ? 

It may please some to hear that he was 
very happy with liis little wife, and that 
they both considered their good fortune 
should make them extra tender to others, 
less lucky than themselves. 

There is not such another pair of match- 
makers in the county. 

What between looking after his estate, 



256 A CRACK COUNTY. 

his hounds and his children, Bob has plenty 
of good honest employment, which saves 
him from sinking down into a mere selfish 
and luxurious Sybarite, intent upon 
nothing but gratifying his own wants and 
wishes. 

Possibly, the sharp lesson he received 
from a small section of English gentlemen 
on his first arrival in Eno^land, thou^^h not 
pleasant at the time, had a salutary effect, 
and taught him that even in the mother 
country there are a good many things net 
worthy of imitation. He may have learnt 
that to be kind and cliaritable, unselfish 
and unaffected, make a man a finer gentle- 
man than possessing smart clothes, having a 

bitter tongue, and an inordinate opinion of 
I— I— I. 



THE END. 



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